Passages: Don LaMont, Hall of Fame Coach Dies

By Dan D’Addona and Mike Stott.

Legendary swimming coach Don LaMont died on Wednesday, Dec. 5, months after suffering a stroke.

LaMont coached for nearly six decades and he was inducted into the American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA) Hall of Fame in 2008. He coached at USC for 25 years and coached 13 Olympians during his career, also coaching Team USA.

His swimmers set 10 American and two world records and included Olympic medalists Sandy Neilson, Jill Sterkel, Cynthia Woodhead, Michelle Ford, Anne Ottenbrite. He also placed Karin LaBarge and Mike Miao on Olympic teams.

“Don inspired in many ways,” Neilson said. “An arm around the shoulder, an encouraging word, that famous affirming grin, and sometimes even the words: ‘My grandmother can swim faster than that!’  We worked extremely hard for our coach which, for so many of us, proved to be great training for real life.  The biggest gift Don gave me was the realization that I could swim fast without him by my side.

His son Ken LaMont coaches at Irvine Novaquatics.

“Swimming in the 1970s compared to today was a completely different experience.  What I do remember was that my dad truly did create a swim team that will can never be duplicated again,” Ken said. “He made no secret about the fact that he wanted to be the best swim coach he could be.  And he understood that to be the best coach, and coach the greatest swimmers, he not only needed hard work in the pool, but a team of swimmers who competed and added to the team environment.”

He had a great impact on other coaches.

“The reason I moved to California was because they was a plethora of outstanding club coaches and Don was on of them,” former Olympic coach Mark Schubert said. “He always had a number of outstanding teams at El Monte and Industry Hills. We had some great battles on the local, sectional and national level. He went on to USC and a number of my athletes swam for him there and had great experiences. My relationship with Don as a friend was as pool director at USC. It was amazing for me to have a world class coach there to run the facility.”

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Author: Daniel D'Addona

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Dan D'Addona is the lead college swim writer for Swimming World. He has covered swimming at all levels since 2003, including the NCAA championships, USA nationals, Duel in the Pool and Olympic trials. He is a native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a graduate of Central Michigan University. He currently lives in Holland, Michigan, where he also is the Sports Editor at The Holland Sentinel.

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