Dorsey Tierney-Walker Fired As Arizona State Swimming Coach

Dorsey Tierney-Walker
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

After five seasons as head coach of the Arizona State swimming and diving program, Dorsey Tierney-Walker will not be on deck for a sixth season, the university’s athletic department announced today.

Full statement by ASU Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson:

“I have informed Dorsey Tierney-Walker that she will not be retained as the head swimming coach at Arizona State University. I want to thank Dorsey for her service to ASU. As it is with all changes in leadership, this decision was not made without a lot of thought and care. Our athletics department, university and community expect our swimming program to compete for individual, conference and national titles, and produce All-Americans and Olympians. We will conduct a national search for a new head coach that is the best fit for our program, university, and community.”

Associate head coach Greg Earhart told Swimming World today that he has been placed on administrative leave after just one season with the Sun Devils, but was not told the exact reasons. “I’m assuming it’s about performance,” he said.

Assistant coach Dan Kessler has been appointed as the interim head coach, Earhart said. Mark Bradshaw appears to remain as diving coach. Swimming World’s calls to Tierney-Walker were not answered Tuesday morning.

Arizona State has routinely placed in the bottom tier at the Pac 12 swimming and diving championships and has placed in the top 15 as a team at the NCAA championships only once, in 2012. Swimmers such as Rebecca Ejdervik and Tristan Baxter were named NCAA All-Americans in their respective events under Tierney-Walker’s guidance, though the divers are routinely among the top 10 each year.

Arizona State’s swimming and diving programs dodged a bullet in 2008 when the university announced it was cutting the teams due to the rising operating costs. But, the support of alumni such as Nick Brunelli helped create an endowment for the team and keep it alive for the foreseeable future.

32 comments

  1. avatar
    Jenna

    Nick Brunelli is not part of the alumni group that has saved the swim team and created the endowment. Rob Richardson, AJ Blusiewicz, Emerson Ward and Simon Percy have all been behind the endowment and the SDSA efforts.

    • avatar
      Nick brunelli

      Sorry jenna I wasn’t part of the SDSA group that was created….. It’s a long story on why I wasn’t. I hate even posing in comments but need to say it’s sad you even have to state I wasn’t a part of that group when it wasn’t just them alone that saved the program. It was more than just the select group that did it…

      Thank you Rob, AJ, Emerson, and Simon AND ALL OTHERS involved for the work you put in to keeping this program a float.

      • avatar
        Crystal Dupay

        Nick’s reputation goes a long way in helping to keep the team alive, and the program afloat. As a parent of a high school junior being recruited right now, the first question she asks when she receives a letter from a school is, “who swam there?” Believe me, Nick has helped ASU’s program tremendously.

  2. avatar
    Sean

    Is Brian Hoffer a candidate? I know he’s been back in the Phoenix area a few years.

    • avatar
      Arizona

      I hope not…. Goodrich?

    • avatar
      LFDY

      What about Zacher and Fergusson? They have done great work already!!

      • avatar
        Arizona

        Kevin has been with SAC for the majority of his coaching career. He is the master mind behind SAC (writing the workouts) and teaming up with JR Rosania on the dry land side. I believe Johno has only been with SAC for 4 months now. Between Taylor, Ryan and Darien I don’t believe Kevin will leave SAC. ASU will pick someone out of state but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do reach out to Kevin.

    • avatar
      Richard Saunders

      There are GREAT coaches with AZ ties
      Dennis Pursley, Tim Bauer, Eric Hansen, Roric Fink, Rich Murphy, and MANY MANY More
      I hope they search and listen – not just look at who applies
      Time to make the right decision !

      • avatar
        Dunc1952

        Certainly there are many fine coaches who could do an excellent job at ASU if provided with competitive resources. Some have Arizona ties, for what value that may have in the process. A partial, though clearly not exhaustive list, might include:

        Ray Looze, Head Coach of Indiana University (Men 12th; Women 10th)
        Formerly head coach of Phoenix Swim Club
        Roric Fink, Assistant coach for Women at University of Texas
        Significant success as club coach in Tempe, Phoenix and Tucson, as well as collegiate staffs
        at UofA, University of Missouri and Texas
        Dennis Pursley, Head Coach at Alabama; was USA Swimming National Team Director, headed
        successful in Kentucky, Australia, Canada and Phoenix before returning to his alma
        mater in Tuscaloosa where he has returned their men to the top ten and women to
        their best finish in a decade.
        Mark Schubert, might he be interested in a return to an NCAA setting? He had teams at two
        different schools win titles
        Jim Nickell, Loveland Swim Club, several successful programs in New Mexico and Colorado after,
        initial roots in Arizona
        on the short list at ASU on at the time of a previous coaching change.
        Gary Hall, co-founder The Race Club, sprint training magnet for stars from multiple nations at different times in their careers, including his son Gary Hall, Jr. and current Olympic 100 Freestyle champion Nathan Adrian; he was a world-record holder himself in 6 different events. Lived in Phoenix for several decades and was involved in every aspect of Phoenix swim club,

      • avatar
        Dunc1952

        (please disregard earlier post which had word processing and spell check issues)

        Certainly there are many fine coaches who could do an excellent job at ASU if provided with competitive resources. Some have Arizona ties, for what value that may have in the process. A partial, though clearly not exhaustive list, might include the following, many of whom would not likely be interested but would be worth consideration.

        Ray Looze, Head Coach of Indiana University (Men 12th; Women 10th)
        Formerly head coach of Phoenix Swim Club

        Roric Fink, Assistant coach for Women at University of Texas; Tempe High graduate
        Significant success as club coach in Tempe, Phoenix and Tucson, as well as collegiate staffs
        at UofA, University of Missouri and Texas

        Dennis Pursley, Head Coach at Alabama; was USA Swimming National Team Director, headed
        successful in Kentucky, Australia, Canada and Phoenix before returning to his alma
        mater in Tuscaloosa where he has returned their men to the top ten and women to
        their best finish in a decade. on the short list at ASU on at the time of a previous coaching change.

        Mark Schubert, might he be interested in a return to an NCAA setting? He had teams at two
        different schools win titles

        Jim Nickell, Loveland Swim Club, led several successful programs in New Mexico and Colorado after,
        initial roots in Arizona

        Gary Hall, co-founder The Race Club, sprint training magnet for stars from multiple nations at
        different times in their careers, including his son Gary Hall, Jr. and current Olympic 100
        Freestyle champion Nathan Adrian; he was a world-record holder himself in 6 different
        events. Lived in Phoenix for several decades and was involved in every aspect of
        Phoenix swim club

        John Bitter, Santa Clara Swim Club. Previously on college staff at UofA and headed its club team
        as well as Las Vegas Gold before heading to Santa Clara.

        Bill Rose, Mission Viejo. ASU’s women’s coach ’79 – ’81, won last national team title

        Several others on the USA Swimming 2014-15 National Team Coaches list with past or current connections to Arizona:

        Tim Bauer, The Woodland (Texas) , on of the co-founders of the wildly successful National Club
        Swimming Association

        Mike Bottom, University of Michigan head coach, 2013 NCAA Champions, once coached sprinters at
        Phoenix Swim Club

        Herbie Behm, Phoenix Swim Club, swam at ASU within last decade

        Augie Busch, Virgina head coach (top 5 women, men in disarray dealing with multiple suspensions)
        Son of USA Swimming National Team Director Frank Busch, who Augie assisted when
        UofA won both men’s and women’s NCAA Team titles

        Coley Stickels, Canyons Swim Club; previously Phoenix head coach, swam at UofA

        Brian Smith, Univ of Georgia associate head coach/recruiting coordinator; in 7 years at Georgia has been part of multiple NCAA team titles; began coaching career with two years stint at ASU

        Whitney Hite, Wisconsin; had been head coach at Washington, then assisted at UofA for a year
        when the Huskies dropped the sport

        Hope you’ll consider pursuing some of these folks, Mr. Anderson.

      • avatar
        Dunc1952

        Knew I’d forget to include some excellent choices, even some of the most obvious, since I was emphasizing those with local ties.

        Steve Schaffer, current Grand Canyon University, coach for men and Women; has raised the program greatly during his tenure, including going through the process of moving from D-II to D-1, all without a pool owned by the school. In the process, 2 guys did times that would have SCORED at D-1 and 2 gals did times that would have gotten to the D-1 meet. Great national and international contacts for recruiting.

      • avatar
        KT

        In response to Dunc1952…a lot of wishful thinking! A lot of the HC’s you mentioned are already at the helm of currently successful (and probably better-funded) programs. Looze, Pursley, Bottom, Busch, Hite. Unless they’re looking for a change of scenery, doubt they’d go to ASU.

        Some of the assistants you mentioned might be looking to move up, but there’s a BIG difference between being a longtime assistant and being the Head Coach, and they know it (especially for a combined program…think about how Zona’s fallen so fast under 2 years of DeMont). It takes a lot of ambition and drive and care to succeed in that role on the national stage.

        And some of those club Head Coaches who’ve been around have already had opportunity to go for similar D1 posts in the past. TWhy would Bitter or Rose leave now for ASU? There would need to be a compelling reason for sure.

        I think ASU’s looking to get somebody who can tap the LOCAL swimming hotbed…they want the “best fit for our program, university and community.” When you look at cost of attending in-state, they practically steal these kids from everywhere else, even without giving many scholarships.

        In that spirit, I’d give a strong nod to LFDY’s Zacher/Fergusson guess, since they’re producing the best LOCAL AZ talent. It just makes sense.

      • avatar
        Dunc1952

        KT — Agreed; absolutely wishful thinking. Many of the listed folks are likely happy where they are and may otherwise simply not be interested in ASU. But you never know until you inquire. I don’t know what $ Anderson may be willing to invest or if there might be other personal considerations why any particular high end coach might be interested at least listening to the potential in a possible change. There is value in aiming high. We only need one. The right one.

      • avatar
        Kara

        Producing local talent on a club setting is not the same as running a DI NCAA program. Anderson will not hire someone with no DI coaching/recruiting experience.

        Not likely that coaches in the B1G, SEC, PAC-12, or Texas would leave their programs snd the money they provide. Plus, why would a PAC-12 coach trade down?

        Schubert’s history at USA Swimming, the DiRanda case, and his tampering with Hutchinson at FAST should scare any AD.

        Whoever is hired has a very difficult job to move up on the PAC-12. Recruiting and getting more kids to NCAAs is essential 1 guy and 3 girls plus relY help is and scoring only diving points is not getting it done at all. Not for a school like ASU.

  3. avatar
    Dunc1952

    The reference to ASU’s limited NCAA top 15 placements should be clarified as relating only to Tierney-Walker’s tenure.

    As summarized by Jeff Metcalfe in his article at AZCentral.com, “The ASU women won eight AIAW national titles from 1967-78. Its highest NCAA finish was sixth in 1988. The men were a NCAA school best sixth in 1982 and had five top-10 finishes from 1982-87.” The women had 4 consecutive top 10 finishes in the 1990s, and the men were top ten again in both 1996 and 2000. The women continued with top 15 performances through the mid-2000s. The ASU men were in the top 15 as recently as 2006.

    The ASU program has shown a history of top-10 or higher national team finishes, among both men and women, as well as NCAA individual champions and Olympic medalists, including recent International Swimming Hall of Fame inductee Agnes Kovacs. Apparently the current administration believes it is not unreasonable to expect the program should return to that level, or better, on a consistent basis.

  4. avatar
    Pierre

    Per her wiki page American Olympian Megan Jendrick is Arizona State alum. Believed she also coach in Seattle right now. Perhaps this is up her alley!

    • avatar
      Tim

      This would be amazing. And I bet they’d have a much better chance recruiting with an Olympic gold medallist as a coach compared to Dorsey

      • avatar
        Dunc1952

        If that is the criterion, right in town, and coaching in Tempe for many years, is Melissa Belote Ripley, a triple gold medalist from Munich who thereafter won national titles for ASU. Don’t forget, though, that Dorsey already had a co-coaching NCAA title on her resume.

      • avatar
        Dunc1952

        Again, if this is the criterion they could also pursue Anita Nall, 1992 relay gold medalist and world record setter who is also an ASU graduate. (Somehow, ASU is a magnet for great young female breaststrokers who decide to strike while the iron is hot after successful Olympics, making some money but giving up their NCAA eligibility. Neither Jendrick nor Nall ever officially swam for ASU, though over the years the list of fine ASU women breaststrokers included the first sub-one minute performer (Beata Kaszuba) and a recent inductee into the ISHOF (Agnes Kovacs).

  5. avatar
    Laura L

    So if we are going to state facts please include all! The article mentions two NCAA All Americans. In fact there were at least 6 that same year. Shannon Landgrebe, Kelli Kyle, Caroline Kuczynski and Cassie Morrice. Under coach Dorsey 11 all time school records were broken. Some of those multiple times. I would think it’s pretty hard to come into a program that had to be saved by Alumni and try to do much recruiting. I don’t know the numbers for the men’s team but I watched them grow under Dorsey’s watch. They have become more successful each year.
    I wish Dorsey the best of luck in your next adventure and would like to say Thank You for all you have done for my daughter and all the swimmers you have coached!
    Shame on you ASU!!

  6. Kara Lennon

    She will land somewhere good! Rutgers is open… She should go there!

    • avatar
      James

      Not quite sure where you got that idea given that their Associate Head Coach, Greg Earhart (who I swam for for a year at Carthage in Wisconsin) was also let go.

  7. avatar
    KMZ

    Ray Anderson is cleaning house. Dorsey is one of four coaches he has fired since taking the job as AD. The other three coaches are male. Division I sports is a fiercely competitive environment and she was let go because she did not produce the results he wanted in his program. If she were winning she would still have her job.

    • avatar
      Kara

      He was placed on administrative leave according to the reports in the media. A recent CSCAA announcement describes Greg Erhart as “the former Associate head coach at Arizona State University, head coach at Carthage College and assistant at both Indiana and Minnesota..”

      So, it would seem he is out at ASU. In any event, unless he is a friend of whoever is hired, he would likely be replaced by a new head coach who will want his/her own people on board.

  8. avatar
    Nick brunelli

    Something to think about with regards to ASU hiring only local talented coaches:

    Who has the experience of recruiting outside a single market (AZ) or at least has some recruiting skills at all. Coaching and recruiting are VERY different. AZ swimming may be talented but if you compare it to the rest of the world with regards to pure numbers of talented swimmers it’s not a good idea to focus on it when deciding on a new hire. It’s a rather short vision to focus on. If you do hire a coach that focuses a lot on the local market, your going to run into 1. Swimmers knowing the dirt ASU has been through with regards to the athletic department and team. 2. Limiting your recruiting market to a small demographic area that’s shaky to commit anyways. If talent dries up, your in trouble again soon.

    In general, You need other recruiting markets to diversify your incoming talent. That’s smart recruiting for the long term but it’s only doable if the coach holds weight outside the local market and comes in with ties already set in those markets! You never want to start from scratch with regards to recruiting in distant markets. It costs a lot of money to send coaches to create those ties in other markets.

    So, If you go with a local talented coach from a “club team” without any ties in other markets, you run into the issue that they don’t hold weight with recruiting anywhere else. To me, That’s scary as an ASU alum who’s seen the talent run through ASU outside The AZ market with great success. I bet the local coaches mentioned in previous posts are great coaches, but recruits and coaches of those recruits for example, South America or The east coast don’t care.

    You also need a “coaching staff” that can “coach” like crazy to improve the basic level swimmers on the team to create that always tough to find training group that loves to train HARD together! The best teams LOVE to train together and talk about it with potential recruits. That’s what the cals, Texas’, and Michigan’s do. The athletes then feel invested long term to keep it going And they help with recruiting when they go home for breaks. As a recruiter, that then limits your need travel as much to keep creating ties. That was something ASU did well with for years and it’s been missing for a while now. It’s time to bring it back!

    • avatar
      KT

      Nick,

      Like you rightly point out, college swimming is built on great recruiting AND especially great coaching and training. The local market happens to have some great talent coming up (can you say Ryan Hoffer), and in-state schools (especially ASU) are well-positioned to recruit it. Money, proximity, academics and school pride all factor in to that positioning. Everyone knows you can’t win at D1 swimming with only local talent, but those good local kids SHOULD be easy commits for ASU instead of getting drawn away to Cal, Texas, Michigan, etc 🙂

      With you being an ASU alum, you know all the dirt, but an average local high school recruit doesn’t know 1/10 of it. They’re still on the outside looking in, and I don’t think any bad history is as limiting to the program as you might expect. Isn’t that why AD’s literally “clean house” with programs that aren’t performing? Anderson and ASU want that fresh start.

      Those coaches mentioned do have different national and foreign ties, to imply they don’t is inaccurate. Check out Scottsdale’s coaches page. Career coaches are never an island unto themselves…they talk to each other, go to conventions, and network like every other professional.

      Truth is, there isn’t as much difference between good college coaching and good club coaching as people assume…the real difference is between the truly great coaches and the plain average ones! ASU needs a truly great coach who’ll take them to the top and be there for years to come! Who’s gonna be ASU’s Eddie Reese?

      • avatar
        Kara

        KT,

        You are right about the difference between college coaching and club coaching. But running a top DI college program isn’t just about the coaching. There is much more to It and in this day and age a coach with no experience with NCAA recruiting and rules is not going to get a job like ASU as an entry level position.

        Anyone Ray Anderson hires will be a career coach with all of the qualities you mentioned, but the will have run or been ask or player in an NCAA program with experience with recruiting, NCAA compliance, and managing a staff in an athletic department environment.

        We should not aspire for the next Eddie Reese, but for someone who will bring the program back to and exceed the levels reached by Mona Plummer, Walt Schleuter. and Ron Johnson. That’s what fans of ASU Swimming should want.

  9. NM Coach

    Duncan1952 –> None of those you listed above would even consider leaving their current positions EXCEPT possibly:

    Jim Nickell — he has D1 experience while at New Mexico and has a proven track record for producing FAST swimmers, male and female, wherever he has coached and he is from that area. The problem is, he has a GREAT gig in Loveland! But he might leave to be a D1 college Head Coach. He would definitely fit the criteria of someone that could come in and scoop up the local talent.

    Steve Schaffer — this is the one that I think is a NO BRAINER! He has done an incredible job at GCU and he has proven that he can recruit!

    It will be interesting to see how this unfolds. Wow? 1952? You’re OLD!!!!!

    • avatar
      Dunc1952

      Ooooh! That kinda hurts. Do I need to change my e-mail address to not be so exposed?

      I agree with you NM Coach (other than me being OLD — and so emphatically!). I’d be quite pleased with either Nickell or Schaffer and would look forward to either having a good run at ASU.

      You say: “None of those you listed above would even consider leaving their current positions ….”

      I just wouldn’t want to be so convinced of that as to not explore what may be possible. In 1978 Eddie Reese took the Texas men’s job. At the 1978 NCAA Eddie had coached Auburn to 2nd place at the NCAA, 6 years after essentially starting from scratch with the Tigers. He moved from a 2nd place NCAA team, into which he had successfully poured his personal blood sweat and tears, to a Texas squad that had NEVER had an individual NCAA swimming champion (only diver Skip Browning) and had’t won a Southwest conference title since 1955, while a single rival, SMU, had won 23 straight from 1957 through 1979, one year into Eddie’s Longhorn tenure. His first Longhorn squad was 21st at the NCAA. His 2nd team won a conference title and his 3rd team won the 1981 NCAA title. Is it too much to ask for ASU, difficult though it may be, to at least seek out this generation’s Eddie Reese, someone willing to leave an established (2nd at NCAA would qualify as established) program to build a dynasty in another location when provided with administrative support (in Eddie’s case, the Texas Swim Center that came online in 1977, certainly helping to make recruiting a tad more effective.)

      Only one approach essentially GUARANTEES they can’t carry out a similar coup: don’t try. Be prepared to pivot to other options if such a gambit does not bear fruit, but at least see if a door might be open which surprises the conventional wisdom.