Passages: Nick Rodionoff, Longtime Pepperdine Coach and Diving Mentor, 87

Photo Courtesy: Jeff Golden

Passages: Nick Rodionoff, Longtime Pepperdine Coach and Diving Mentor, 87

Nick Rodionoff, the former women’s swimming and diving head coach at Pepperdine who worked at the school for four decades, died on Feb. 17. He was 87 years old.

Rodionoff led the swimming and diving program for 18 years from 2000-18. He led the Waves to 14 top-five finishes at the Pacific Collegiate Swim & Dive Conference Championships. He was named the PCSC coach of the year in 2002 and 2009, mentored Jessica Mosbaugh to consecutive conference swimmer of the year honors and tutored six PCSC divers of the year. He also navigated the team through an attempted axing of the program.

“It is truly a sad day for Pepperdine Swim and Dive,” Pepperdine Director of Athletics Steve Potts said in a university statement. “Nick loved our program and every student-athlete he coached like no one else could. We pray for God’s comfort, peace and blessing for Carrie and the entire Rodionoff family.”

Rodionoff’s head coaching stint was but one chapter in a long coaching career, that included his induction to the National High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 2004. At Pepperdine, he coached the men’s diving team starting in 1974 and founded the women’s team in 1987, leading into five consecutive unbeaten seasons. He was the diving coach at UCLA from 1964-76.

Rodionoff graduated from Occidental College in 1957, having competed in diving, football and track & field. He won a conference championship in diving as a senior. He taught for 39 years in the Los Angeles School District and coached the boys and girls swimming and diving teams at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys for 33 years. His teams compiled a record of 324-3 in dual meets, winning 31 league championships, 10 Los Angeles City Section boys championships and four girls championships. He coached 36 All-Americans. In 1999, he received the Fred A. Cady Memorial Coaches Award, given to coaches who give 25 or more years to athletes in the U.S. diving program.

“Nick welcomed me to this role with open arms and nothing but support and encouragement,” current Pepperdine swimming and diving head coach Ellie Monobe said. “He provided me with the best head coaching transition a rising assistant could ever dream of. I am still incredibly humbled and honored to have known him and only wish I had met him sooner. Nick will be dearly missed by past and present student-athletes, but his legacy will forever be remembered by future swim & dive Waves.”

“Swimming and diving, the Pepperdine community and the coaching world has lost a giant,” Pepperdine men’s volleyball head coach emeritus Marv Dunphy said. “Coaches, athletes and people in general cherished being around Nick because of his brilliance, mostly his abundance of common sense, what he stood for and that they knew that he cared so deeply. He was solid in every way, tough and at the same time a kind teddy bear. Kindness is the highest form of wisdom and Nick was kind.”

Birmingham High School named its pool in his honor, and Pepperdine renamed the Malibu Invitational in honor of Nick and his wife, Carrie.

Rodionoff was born in Los Angeles in 1935, to musical parents: Father Sergei was a musician and composer; mother Maria was an opera singer. He began coaching at Porter Junior High School, where he also taught. He was also an accomplished photographer.

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, Carrie (nee Bentley), whom he met while she was training to become a swim coach, as well as two children and four grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking those interested to make a donation to the Nick and Carrie Rodionoff endowed fund.

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Raymond Woods
Raymond Woods
1 year ago

Rest in peace, my friend

Raymond Woods
Raymond Woods
1 year ago

I think I’m correct when I say he is the only swimming coach that ever had a national champion in swimming and a national champion in diving and I believe the girls were the Adair sisters, Bonnie and Jerry

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