Passages: Jim Puleo, Panama Olympic Coach, Carson Tiger Sharks Coach, Dies at 67


Jim Puleo, who coached swimming at all levels, and all over the world, has died. He was the Panama Olympic swimming coach in 2000. Puleo died on Friday at age 67 after suffering a pulmonary edema, which led to cardiac arrest, following heart surgery on Tuesday, according to a news release.

Jim Puleo was born in Philadelphia and had a long, distinguished coaching career, which took him around the world. He graduated from Arizona State University before becoming the age group coach for the Glendale Gauchos. He went on to take over the Tempe Makos Swim Team from 1974-79. Meanwhile, Puleo was a teacher at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, Arizona.

Puleo coached at the Phoenix Aquatic Club and his first international stop was in Saudi Arabia, before assisting Bob Gillett with the women’s team at Arizona State. His travels didn’t end there. He coached at the Cascade Swim Club in Seattle and the Mount Hood Swim Team in Oregon. His boys won Junior Nationals West in Long Beach, California (1993) before it was off to international pools again.

Puleo moved on to Thailand where he was Project Director for the Thai Swimming Federation until the Asian Financial Crisis. Then he returned the the U.S. and in 1999-2000 was the senior coach for Sun Devil Aquatics, before landing in Carson City, Nevada, where he was the head coach/CEO for the Carson Tiger Sharks. He coached Lauren Costella, a USA Swimming two-time national champion (1500 free) to a bronze medal in the World University Games. He also coached HEAT in Waco, Texas.

Along the way, he conducted FINA clinics in Turkey, St. Vincent, Guyana, St. Lucia, Mongolia, Namibia, Vietnam and India. Internationally, he coached in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Egypt, and Singapore.

Puleo was on the staff for the first national zone distance camp at Stanford University in 1990 and the following year . The third year of the camp, he was the director, then became the national director for zone distance camps in 1994.

A celebration of life will be announced at a later date.

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Steve Betts
9 months ago

It was always fun talking with Jim at big meets and bragging about distance sets our swimmers were doing. Jim was always sharing jokes and ready to laugh – a true character and he will be missed.

Patrick Grant
9 months ago

Very saddened by this news. Jim coached my brother and me in our Podunk town of Waco, TX. He was tough as nails but turned me into a better swimmer and a better person. I will forever be grateful for my experience as an athlete with him. Wishing condolences to his family as they celebrate his life.