Passages: Dan Colella, Longtime Coach at Duke, Dies at Age 60

Photo Courtesy: Duke Athletics

Passages: Dan Colella, Longtime Coach at Duke, Passes Away at Age 60

Duke head coach Dan Colella passed away Friday after a battle with cancer. Colella, who was the Blue Devils’ head coach since the 2005-06 season, was 60 years old.

The University announced his death in a press release Saturday afternoon. Colella is survived by his wife, Victoria, and children Henry, George, Ellinor and Caroline.

During Colella’s time at the school, Duke swimmers and divers collected 64 All-America honors and 24 ACC championships, and last year, the Duke women recorded their highest-ever finish at the ACC Championships with a fifth-place result — which was followed by a 24th-place finish at the NCAA Championships — while the men took 10th on the conference level. Duke swimmers set 10 school records last season, and every single school record was set during Colella’s time at the school, with the oldest mark dating back to 2010.

Perhaps Colella’s biggest accomplishment in the pool came in January 2017 when he led Duke to historic dual meet wins over primary rival North Carolina. The Duke men had not beaten the Tar Heels since 1939 (78 years), while the women had never defeated UNC, but both programs came out on top that day in Chapel Hill.

“Four years ago, when we recruited these seniors, we talked about being a team that could contend in the ACC and beat the likes of a UNC,” Colella said after the meet. “There were a number of people that really closed incredibly well to put their hand on the wall before a Tar Heel, and that’s what it’s all about. We just couldn’t be more excited.”

After that meet, Duke’s women went on a four-season winning streak against North Carolina while the men added wins in 2018 and 2019.

Even before Duke announced the passing of Colella, who was previously head women’s coach at the University of Tennessee for 12 season before coming to Durham, tributes from coaches were already popping up on social media. Dan Carrington, now the associate head coach at Penn State but previously a Duke assistant coach, wrote:

“Dan Colella was a great friend, mentor, and brother to me. I will never forget the night he took me to dinner and told me that this is the career I should seriously consider. He saw something in me I would’ve never seen.

“I am heartbroken for losing my friend and for Victoria, Henry, George, Ellinor, and Caroline. I enjoy all the stories those of us who knew him well have been sharing in the last few days.

“Dan’s legacy lives on in every single life he touched. Miss you dearly, Dan.”

The North Carolina swimming and diving program shared a post in Colella’s honor on Instagram:

Duke announced that a memorial service for Colella will be held Sunday, January 15, at the Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center. The Blue Devils are scheduled to host North Carolina State for their final dual meet of the season one day earlier.

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