In 1968, Murray Stephens co-founded the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, which, in the eyes of Olympic Coach Mark Schubert, became “the best swimming club program in America” rivaling clubs in the sunbelts of California and Florida. He trained local swimmers and attracted other swimmers to relocate to his facility where he would turn them from good swimmers into great swimmers.
Theresa Andrews won the 100m backstroke and 4x100m medley relay gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Anita Nall set world records as well as winning gold, silver and bronze Olympic breaststroke medals in 1992 in Barcelona and Beth Botsford won the 1996 Atlanta Olympic 100m backstroke and 4x100m medley relay gold medals.
Due to Murray’s leadership, North Baltimore has had swimmers qualify for each U.S. Olympic Trials since 1968. He hired assistant coaches with his own philosophy. Theresa Andrews said, “He doesn’t teach you just to swim fast; he teaches you how to think.” He was a high school English teacher, writer and poet - creative in nature.
His assistants, Bob Bowman, Paul Yetter, among others, were mentored in his mold and added 14 gold medals, one silver, and four bronze medals as well as setting an additional 34 world records within the NBAC program.
When he was six years old, young Michael Phelps joined the club. Murray’s wife, Patty, coached Michael in younger years, then Murray sent him from coach to coach in the club to receive the benefits from each coach’s strengths. Murray created an environment where young Michael could believe that anything was possible through creative goal setting and disciplined work.
As Phelps ascended, Murray stepped aside to let Bowman continue the relationship. With Murray’s philosophy and under the direction of Bowman, Michael became the greatest swimmer the world has ever seen. World record holder and Olympic medalist Katie Hoff is also a product of the Stephen’s system.
In 1986, Murray took over Baltimore’s Meadowbrook Pool summer business and built it into a year-round Aquatic Center, turning it into one of the first financially stable, private facilities in the nation. His international coaching assignments include 1996 Olympic Games and 1998 World Championship Assistant Women’s Coach and 2000 World Championship Short Course Head Men’s Coach. He has coached eight U.S. National Champions, winning a combined 23 titles.
Although handing the reins at NBAC to his long-time assistant and friend Bob Bowman in 2009, he continues to mentor swimmers and coaches daily, now in his fifth decade of club coaching.