Texas Asst. Wyatt Collins: Eddie Reese ‘Has Meant a Heck of a Lot to Me’

eddie reese, wyatt collins
Texas' Eddie Reese and Wyatt Collins at the 2018 U.S. Nationals -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Less than 48 hours after the University of Texas men’s team secured its 15th national championship, coach Eddie Reese announced his retirement after 43 years. The news came as a surprise to the swimming community, and even those in Reese’s near orbit did not know until days before. Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said Monday that Reese called him from Greensboro, a few hours before the Longhorns secured their national championship, and it was during that meet that Reese told his assistant coach, Wyatt Collins.

“Eddie told me at NCAAs. He pulled me aside during the meet, and we had a conversation,” Collins said. “Despite my best attempts to throw some Eddie-isms at him or get him to reconsider or to postpone, at least, for a couple days or a couple weeks and think about it some more, he was pretty adamant about it. He told me that he and (his wife) Elinor had spoken on and off for a few weeks. He felt like it was time.

“At that point, I broke down crying, as I think a lot of people in that situation would have done. He has meant a heck of a lot to me. I wouldn’t be where I am in life without him.”

The Texas swimmers learned of Reese’s decision in a 3 p.m. meeting on Monday that also included postgraduate swimmers training in Austin, support staff and former Texas assistant coach Kris Kubik. “It was emotional,” Collins said. “It was extremely emotional. A lot of tears were shed. Kris Kubik was there, and he opened things up and talked about their time together. It was a powerful meeting. Eddie said a lot of great things in a way that only Eddie can. I don’t know if there was a dry eye in the room. It was a lot to comprehend.”

Collins swam one year for Texas after transferring from Boston University, and he became the volunteer assistant coach for the team in 2013. After three seasons in that role, he was promoted to assistant coach when Kris Kubik retired after the 2016 Olympic Trials. Texas’ press release on Monday announced that Collins would become interim head coach following this year’s Olympic Trials, but until then, nothing about the day-to-day operation of the program will change. In particular, Collins has led the Longhorns’ recruiting efforts for the last five years, and he will continue to direct that area.

“Eddie is still going to be on deck. He’s still head coach, and he is still running this program. Once Trials comes to pass, he’s going to be head coach emeritus. He’ll still be able to be on deck, still be able to coach, still be able to work with the guys,” Collins said. “I’m approaching everything the same way I’ve approached the past five years with Ed. I’m taking orders from him and working together with him to figure out how to best navigate the next few months getting to Trials.”

When discussing the future head coach of the program in his retirement press conference, Reese said, “Real good feeling on it, but it’s not happening until after Trials.” Regarding any possible changes in the program following this summer, Collins had no comment.

After Collins had been his assistant for one year, Reese said, “The guys came to me after I hired Wyatt, and they said, ‘If you’d have retired with Kris and Wyatt would have stayed, no one would have left,’ so that’s a real complement to Wyatt, and he’s done a phenomenal job.”

That was in 2017, and Reese has continued to speak glowingly of Collins in the years since,. Hours after Reese’s retirement announcement, Collins was only grateful for Reese’s mentorship.

“I’m just super, super grateful to have had these experiences and these last 10 years with Eddie. He has been a huge part of my life, and he’s going to continue to be a huge part of my life, no matter what happens. He’s been a friend, a mentor, a father figure, a questionably good joke teller, sometimes,” Collins said.

“He can impart wisdom to you in any situation, whether it’s sitting on the bleachers, in a pool, on a plane, whether it’s in an airport, in the weight room, out to dinner, in a car ride, and it can seemingly come out of nowhere, sometimes. You might be talking hamburgers, and he drops a nugget on you where it’s like, wow, that just shook my world. Usually, you walk away with a little more experience than when you sat down with him. That’s why he’s Eddie Reese. That’s why there’s never going to be anyone like him. We’re all better for having him in our lives.”

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Eugene Watson

    EDDIE, one of a kind. My idol and source for coaching ideas for my 27 years of high school coaching swimming!

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