Texas Men’s Coach Eddie Reese Announces Retirement After 43 Seasons, 15 National Championships

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Eddie Reese -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Eddie Reese, the longtime head coach of the University of Texas men’s team, has announced his retirement. Reese, 79, won his 15th national championship on Saturday when his Longhorns beat California by 27 points at the men’s NCAA championships in Greensboro, N.C.

Previously, Reese and Texas won national championships in 1981, for four years straight from 1988 through 1991, in 1996, three years straight from 2000 to 2002, in 2010 and then four years straight from 2015 through 2018. Following his win this week, he is the only swimming coach to win national titles in five different decades. Also in his illustrious career, Reese has coached 22 Olympic gold medalists and been the head coach of the U.S. men’s Olympic team in 1992, 2004 and 2008. He was an assistant coach on the U.S. Olympic team in 1996, 2000 and 2012.

Reese will remain in his role as head coach through the Olympic Trials this June and the ensuing Olympics in Tokyo, and then he will transition to head coach emeritus. Wyatt Collins, Reese’s assistant coach for the last five seasons, will take over as interim head coach.

In a zoom press conference Monday afternoon, Reese said that he just decided within the last week that he would be retiring. Reese called Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte on Saturday (while he was at NCAAs but before Texas officially clinched the national championship) to tell Del Conte of his decision to retire, but Reese did not tell his swimmers until a 3 p.m. meeting Monday afternoon.

“Going into this swim meet, I had already made my decision that I was going to retire, regardless of the outcome of the meet,” Reese said. “I’m real happy about the outcome, but this isn’t anything that I’ve dwelled on. I’ve always said I would know when to retire, and it would always be before anybody wanted me to retire. So that’s where I am. I just decided last week I was going to retire.”

In his 43 years at Texas, Reese’s teams won 42 straight conference titles in the Southwest Conference and later in the Big-12, and the Longhorns finished in the top 10 at the NCAA championships an amazing 41 straight years. In addition to his 15 national titles, Reese led his team to 12 NCAA runnerup finishes and seven third-place finishes, which means Texas finished in the top three at NCAAs in 34 of his 43 years (including the 2020 season, when the NCAA championships was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Despite the length of Reese’s massively successful reign at Texas, his teams were arguably at their best in recent years. The Longhorns have won five of the last six NCAA team championships (while finishing second in 2019) and have finished either first or second in 12 of the last 13 years (while finishing third in 2013). Texas had developed a rivalry with Cal as the two teams have occupied the top two spots at the NCAA championships at each of the last seven meets and at 10 of the last 11.

After his retirement, Reese’s role as head coach emeritus will allow him to come to practice when he wants and help out, and he hinted that he may also help out with the women’s team at Texas as well.

“I’ve said for years that if I could just go to practice and not go to meets, I could coach until I’m 100. So as long as my mind is good and my jokes are good, I’m going to keep doing it,” Reese said. He paused and added, “My jokes are always good.”

Regarding the looming decision on who will be the next coach at Texas, Reese said, “Real good feeling on it, but it’s not happening until after Trials.”

Reflecting on his career, Reese said that he prided himself on his teams carrying themselves with dignity and winning and losing the right way. About the accomplishments about which he is most proud, Reese said:

“The thing I got most out of coaching swimming has nothing to do with winning or trophies or anything like that. It all has to do with interpersonal relationships. Coaches are in a great position that I love because I’m a firm believer that if the purpose of our life is to help, it puts us in a position to do just that. I’m a big book reader, all fiction. Since March of last year, in a year I’ve read over 100 books. In one of the books, we all know the saying, ‘You can’t take it with you when you die.’ And then, underneath that, it said, ‘The only thing you take with you is that which you’ve given others.’ We’re here to help, and I’ve been able to do that.”

In a press release, Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte called Reese “truly the greatest coach ever.” In the press conference, Del Conte called Reese “a true treasure” and said, “How do you define a guy who’s won a championship under six Presidents?”

Del Conte reflected on his first meeting with Reese upon his hiring in 2017.

“When I first got here and met Eddie Reese, he said, ‘I’m the last coach hired by coach Darrell Royal.’ I’m thinking, ‘Holy smokes.’ I said, ‘How old are you, dude?’ I affectionately refer to him as Yoda because he’s not only one of the greatest coaches ever in our country, but more importantly, he’s a great sounding board for al of our coaches.

Reese coached hundreds of swimmers over the course of his time at Texas, but over the last four seasons, that group included his grandson, Luke Bowman. Bowman capped off his four years at Texas by finishing second in the 50 free and fourth in the 100 free at this year’s Big-12 championships.

“My grandson, when he retired, sent a text out to the other sprinters in his group and said that the other swimmers were going to miss him because he was the best at talking me out of yardage in practice, and he wasn’t really good at that,” Reese said. “He was one of the ten guys that didn’t get to go to the meet and made the qualifying standard to go to the meet. We’re real proud of those ten guys. The reason that happens is there’s no guy on our team who goes uncared for and uncoached at any time during the year. If they’re all good, that gives confidence to the guys that are going to the meet.”

Kris Kubik, Reese’s assistant coach during 34 of his 43 years at Texas, provided a statement to Swimming World on the impact Reese made during his career: “Eddie is the kindest, most loving man I know. He always tries  to do everything he can to bring out the very best in everyone he encounters — that’s a trait we all could use! To think of how many generations of lives he has touched in a positive and caring way is simply mind-boggling. The sport has been blessed to enjoy him all these years and I wish him many wonderful and happy days ahead in retirement.”

Following Kubik’s retirement in 2016, Collins moved up from volunteer assistant coach to assistant coach. In his press conference, Reese spoke glowingly about what both Kubik and Collins brought to the table for the Longhorns.

“They took care of the kids. Kris and Wyatt have both got a gift of reading faces. They know when somebody needs to be pulled aside and talked to. Assistant coach always hears more than the head coach, which is a good thing. They handled those problems just with the athlete in mind first. Secondly, they did a phenomenal job taking care of me.”

6 comments

  1. avatar
    Michael Homan

    Eddie Rocks and goes out on Top!!!#1
    Thank you Coach Reese for all you did for the Sport of Swimming!!! Enjoy your free time!!?‍♂️??‍♀️

  2. avatar
    John Casadia

    To say Eddie is a masterful coach doesn’t cover it. He always had time to talk to coaches like me at clinics. Didn’t matter whether you were a developmental coach or D-I coach. He had time for everyone. He is a COACHES ROLE MODEL.
    John Casadia

  3. avatar
    David (Duff) Tyler III

    Eddie congratulations on your magical run at Texas, I learned much from you during our time together at St. Lawrence. Thank you! Duff Tyler

  4. avatar
    Jason Ockerman

    I remember Eddie from my days at Longhorn Aquatics. Although I was not good enough to swim with the Longhorns, he would sometimes watch our practices before his guys would take to the pool. He once pulled me aside after a practice and told me that appreciated my work and said that could see the competitiveness and fire in my strokes. Who does that? Many of my teammates swam for him, but his kind words and affable personality will always resonate with myself and a whole generation of swimmers. Great coach, better person. Thank you coach, thank you. You have showed all of us that love, mentoring, and believing in people is the true test of character and the real importance of coaching. God bless you and those that are precious to you.

  5. avatar
    Don Megerle

    Coach Reese and his team can walk onto the pool deck and beat your team….then he could walk across the pool deck and take your team and beat his team…he is that good!!

  6. avatar
    Anonymous

    Thank you Eddie for your unmatched contributions to the sport of swimming !!

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