Winning Assistants (Part II): Succession Has Been a Routine Name of the Game


Winning Assistants (Part II): Succession Has Been a Routine Name of the Game previously featured Jim Steen and a string of Kenyon assistants who have found success as aquatic head coaches. In this installment, we explore the paths of select D-I coaches who are mimicking the achievements of their mentors.

Winning Assistants (Part I)

Former SEC coaches David Marsh, Gregg Troy and Jack Bauerle reside in a variety of halls of fame. Collectively, they have been head U.S. and international Olympic coaches, produced tens of Olympians, hundreds of NCAA champions, thousands of CSCAA All-Americans, and have earned countless coach-of-the-year accolades throughout their careers. Not surprisingly, a number of their notable assistants are following similar exalted paths.

“As a head coach, a main job is to provide great success for your athletes,” says Bauerle, who retired from the University of Georgia after 43 years. “Another is to help assistants become head coaches.”


Marsh coached at Auburn from 1990 to 2007. In that time, he earned 12 NCAA titles (seven men’s, five women’s) and coached 276 athletes to 1,312 CSCAA All-America recognitions. His team garnered 40 individual and 25 relay titles at NCAA Championships and even more in the uber-competitive Southeastern Conference meet. He subsequently departed for Charlotte, N.C., where he helped retool Mecklenburg Aquatic Club into SwimMAC and developed Team Elite. After 10 years, he went to the University of San Diego and continued to work with Team Elite athletes before moving to the University of California-Berkeley in 2022, where he currently works as associate head coach under his former Auburn assistant, Dave Durden.

That reunion has only buttressed the era of good feeling that has permeated Berkeley since Durden’s arrival in 2007. In his first two years, the Golden Bears finished fourth. Thereafter, they have won six national championships and never finished worse than second. Durden assumed full responsibility for the women’s team in 2023.

Durden worked at Auburn from 2000-05, a halcyon period in which the Tigers won three men’s and three women’s NCAA titles. He then became head coach at Maryland (2005-07) before the Terp administration axed aquatics, and he moved back to the Golden State (UC Irvine, 1998 grad) to take the head post for the Bears.

Durden’s success at Cal has never surprised Marsh: “His ambition was what first struck me. He called me and asked if I had any jobs at Auburn. I didn’t, but he came as a volunteer, and later served as a GA, assistant and associate coach, earning ‘every title promotion.’

“I remember when Dave came to look at us. On his first day on deck, I gave him a butterfly group. I came by and asked what their heart rates were, and he nailed it. Mike Bottom (later Michigan head coach and national champion coach) was much the same way.

“I didn’t have a template to groom people as a head coach in the early days,” says Marsh. “I wanted to help people be as good as they could be. I was looking for people who knew some things, but more importantly, were eager searchers for information and ways to get better.

“Dave’s biggest attribute was that he had charisma and passion. He was endearing, and the team loved him right away. One of his strengths at Berkeley is that the athletes like and respect him. That’s one of his foundational characteristics…and that hasn’t changed.

“He has the ability to take any practice, whether written by him or me, and make it better and more colorful, adjusting it with his engineering mind or his personality and flair. He does that today. He was also very good with the team dynamic and staff. We had Jeff Dugdale, Kim Brackin and Adam Crossen. We were coaching and recruiting well and swimming fast in long course water. It was a high-water mark of our program.

“Another significant aspect was that Dave spent time with Clayton Cagle at Fleet. He showed a passion for coaching, had the personality and training, and he spent time with Dave Salo after college, so his background in the sport was pretty good. At Cal, he coaches the entire team, and his DNA is on all the athletes,” says Marsh.



Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

In an earlier time (1987-90), Marsh was head coach at Las Vegas Gold. One of his age group coaches was a Florida State graduate named Bob Bowman. “It was clear to me that his passion to bring out the best in these kids played out in his energy on the deck, his efforts to learn from multiple resources and his relentless preparation for practice sessions,” says Marsh. “I knew in a very short time he was going to be way beyond any typical version of a coach, and I predicted back then he would be an Olympic coach.” In a serendipitous irony, both men served as Olympic head coaches in 2016.

Bowman’s accolades are off the charts. In addition to being a head U.S. Olympic coach, he has been a three-time Olympic assistant. His work with five-time Olympian Michael Phelps lasting 20 years has been well-documented. He helped Phelps to 28 Olympic medals (23 gold), 82 podiums in major international long course competitions, 39 world records, eight swimmer-of-the-year awards…ad infinitum.

But Bowman also had other athletes at North Baltimore Aquatic: Olympians Allison Schmitt and Chase Kalisz, just to name two. While succeeding Jon Urbanchek at Michigan (2005-08), he guided brothers Vanderkaay (Peter and Alex) and Davis Tarwater to two NCAA titles each, was twice named coach of the year and earned an ASCA Hall of Fame induction.

In 2015, Bowman matriculated to the Valley of the Sun and became head coach of the men’s and women’s teams at Arizona State. There he lifted moribund Sun Devil teams to new heights, including a second-place men’s NCAA finish in 2023. Since 2017, his men have earned 58—and women, 25—CSCAA All-America recognitions.

On a macro level, Bowman has attracted a world-class professional roster that includes Olympians Leon Marchand, Regan Smith, Jay Litherland, Olivia Smoliga, Hali Flickinger, Ryan Held and Simone Manuel. Future Olympic Trials in numerous countries will feature athletes bearing a Bowman background.


Marsh and Jeff Dugdale, head coach at Queen’s University for the last 14 years, worked together for more than 20 years. Their partnership started with Dugdale’s time as a three-year letterman at Auburn, then as an assistant Tiger coach and ultimately as Marsh’s high-performance director at Team Elite in Charlotte, where he worked with a number of Olympic and international-class athletes.

In 2023, Queens transitioned to D-I competition, but not before winning seven consecutive men’s and women’s NCAA D-II national championships, including 124 individual D-II NCAA titles. In that time, Dugdale steered his athletes to 735 All-America swims (351 men, 384 women)—none of which surprised Marsh, who says, “Jeff’s enthusiasm and passion coupled with his desire to make a positive impact in the sport of swimming make him a tremendous leader.”


Like Bauerle, a Pennsylvanian by birth, Gregg Troy carved his fame farther south. A 1972 graduate of TCU, Troy found his way to Florida. In 1977 after five years in Fort Myers with Cypress Lake High School and the Fort Myers Swim Association, he began a 20-year run at the Bolles School. There he burnished an already proud Shark tradition that produced 15 boys’ and 11 girls’ Florida state high school championships in addition to several national high school team crowns.

After taking the head post at the University of Florida, Troy flourished even more. In his two decades in Gainesville, he guided the Gators to 43 national, 177 SEC event titles and led more than 250 athletes to 1,145 CSCAA All-America honors. In his career, he tutored more than 75 Olympians (including Ryan Lochte) while coaching swimmers to more than 155 U.S. and international records. In 2010, his girls’ squad won NCAAs.

Troy was no stranger to coaching honors. Let us count the ways: A partial list has him as a three-time U.S. Olympic coach (head coach in 2012) and Olympic coach once each with Guam and Thailand. He served on three U.S. World Championship teams (head women’s coach in 1998). He also won 10 SEC and three NCAA Coach-of-the-Year awards along with USA Swimming and ASCA COY in 2010.

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

One constant in his UF tenure was 1988 100 butterfly Olympic champion Anthony Nesty. A native of Suriname, Nesty gravitated to Bolles in 1985 and continued his swimming career at Florida, where he notched four NCAA butterfly crowns. He served as Troy’s assistant until assuming the men’s (2018) and women’s (2021) top job. Since then, he has led the Gator men to five successive SEC titles and six total SEC COY nods.

Nesty was an assistant U.S. coach for the 2023 U.S. FINA World team, and is the men’s head Olympic coach for Paris in 2024. He also led the Suriname Olympic teams in 2012 and 2016 plus the Cayman Islands and Venezuela national teams in international competition.

As an associate head coach at Florida (2006-18), Nesty developed a bevy of All-Americans, including Brett and Shaune Fraser, Duncan Sherrard and Martin Cieslak, but his prowess as a mentor to middle-distance and distance freestylers like Olympic champion Bobby Finke is one reason that he is attracting an army of world-class freestylers such as Katie Ledecky to his professional lot.

“Anthony is one of the most revered coaches in college swimming, and one of the few who is considered both a great athlete and a great coach,” says Troy. “He’s got a great work ethic and a tremendous ability to get results. His experience at the Olympics as an athlete is instrumental in his ability to relate to our current athletes. His reputation for getting the most out of them speaks for itself.”

As comrades-in-arms, Troy admired Nesty for a number of traits. As an assistant at both Bolles and Florida, he was “committed, understood the sport and was hardworking above anything else,” he says. “He swam for a very good coach in Suriname and for Randy Reese—people who knew what they were doing.

“Anthony has really appreciated what swimming gave him based on his background. He has immersed himself in all aspects of the sport. The fact that he had a club background in Sarasota and had been a head high school coach in Jacksonville has helped. Any time I was gone, he ran our program well. Anthony also communicates well with his swimmers. Another reason he is so successful is that he has a passion, a characteristic he displayed as an athlete and now as a coach,” says Troy.


Jack Bauerle may have left the deck in 2022, but he still labors in the field for a variety of University of Georgia causes. Bauerle cut his teeth in the SEC internecine days of Don Gambril, Randy Reese, Ray Bussard, John Trembley, et al. Through it all, his Bulldog women won seven NCAA team championships, including 78 individual and relay national crowns—181 of his CSCAA All-Americans earned 886 first- and 494 second-team citations. Of Bauerle’s male All-Americans, 22 were NCAA champions and 123 garnered 262 first- and 474 second-team recognitions. He also coached 87 Olympians from 20 countries, and 39 of his swimmers won Olympic medals.

His personal honors knew no bounds. Consider:

  • 7x NCAA COY
  • 18x (16 men, 2 women) SEC COY awards
  • 4x U.S. Olympic coach (head 2008, assistant 2000, 2016, 2020)
  • 7x World Championships coach (head 2003, 2005, 2011; assistant 2001, 2007, 2017, 2019)
  • Winning 103 straight home meets over 21 years

As someone who fervently believes in being more than a coach but part of the school, he counts among his highest honors:

  • Delivering a University of Georgia commencement address;
  • Being on the board at the UGA College of Arts & Sciences; and
  • Membership in the Blue Key, Sphinx Club and Gridiron Secret Society

Photo Courtesy: Chamberlain Smith / Georgia Athletics

Bauerle had a bevy of excellent coaches in his stable during his 43 years in Athens. Harvey Humphries served as his distance ace for 38 seasons. Now former assistants Stefanie Williams Moreno and Neil Versfeld currently hold down the fort. One longtime aide de camp, Carol Capitani, left the fold after two stints with him (1996-2008, 2010-12), and is now in her 12th season as head women’s coach at the University of Texas.

Capitani’s college coach was Karen Moe Thornton at Cal, where she earned eight CSCAA certificates as a breaststroker and IMer. In Austin, she has elevated the Longhorn women to NCAA podium status (second in 2023, 2022; third in 2021) and led 52 women to All-America status. In 2023, she was the U.S. women’s head coach at World Championships after serving as assistant in 2022, head World University Games coach in 2017 and assistant in 2013. She also coached the Singapore national team for two years.

“Carol came to Athens after coaching for three years at Villanova. She was very persistent in pursuing the UGA job,” says Bauerle. “She has exceptional intuitive skills. At the biggest level—that is the common denominator. Carol looked around, and I think this is where she wanted to be. We were on the cusp of doing some really big things (1996-97) at the time. Those great things came to be with the Bulldog women collecting NCAA titles in 1999-2001, 2005, 2013, 2014 and 2016, including becoming the first team to win all five relays at the 2005 NCAA meet.

“In hiring, loyalty is the No. 1 thing for me,” says Baurle. “Loyalty spills over to everything you do. I had total trust in her, and we established a great friendship. I hire for loyalty first, knowledge second. Everything else can be taught. Being around her, I knew she was going to be loyal and would do all she could for this program.”

Capitani has continued that program loyalty and dedication to her duties at the Forty Acres.


Braden Holloway is in his 13th season as head coach at North Carolina State University after having spent seven seasons as an assistant at Virginia Tech. A five-time NCSU All-American in the backstroke, he has guided his Wolfpack squads to 10 ACC crowns and 78 individual titles and 46 ACC relay gold medals. Nationally, his athletes have earned All-American status 501 times. NC State men and women closed the 2023 campaign with fifth-place NCAA finishes.

As for individual accomplishments, Holloway has garnered 10 (nine men’s, one women’s) Atlantic Coast Conference COY awards. He was assistant coach in 2023 and head man for Team USA at the 2022 World Championships, where the USA set the record for most medals (45) in a single sport. He was head coach for the 2019 World University Games team and assistant in 2017. At last count, he had mentored 12 Olympians, including gold medalist Ryan Held.

For six of his seasons at NC State, Holloway was joined on deck by associate head coach Todd DeSorbo. Their early friendship was through Holloway’s eventual wife before they later bonded at an NCAA meet. When Holloway was appointed Wolfpack coach, he began contemplating future staffers and realized he was unlikely to woo an established head coach to his struggling program.

“I wanted to assemble a staff where I could have fun, feel motivated and bring a lot of excitement to what we wanted to do. As I did my research, I learned that athletes with Todd always got better, and I needed someone who could develop kids to get faster. Todd was a savvy recruiter; we had good chemistry, and I was comfortable with the prospects of our working relationship,” says Holloway.

“In Raleigh when I began putting more on his plate, he had the ability to juggle it all and still get high-level results. He was also good at a lot of different things—and at not letting outside things distract him. He is good at just being himself. As at NC State, and now at Virginia, he has evolved. He is creative and encourages that creativity with his coaches and athletes. He also has a knack for making people smile. He creates a great energy and environment for people around him. When we coached together, it was fun. I enjoyed every minute of it.”

DeSorbo took the UVA job in 2017, and the Cavalier aquatic ascent has been an unqualified success. The women have now won three consecutive NCAA titles, and the men’s team has finished in the top 10 three times at the NCAA Championships.

Recruiting has been over the top. As an example, the arrival of Kate Douglass and Alex Walsh—winners of three individual events at 2022 NCAAs—and a bevy of talented teammates accounted for 75 All-America honors, 11 NCAA wins and nine American records. Douglass and DeSorbo were named CSCAA swimmer and coach of the year, respectively. To date, the Cavaliers have amassed 283 All-America swims, 28 NCAA individual and relay titles plus 67 ACC individual and relay wins.

The coach and Virginia swimmers have shone on the international stage as well. DeSorbo was an assistant coach in 2021 at the Tokyo Olympics, where he coached four of his UVA swimmers to 18 medals. At the 2022 World Championships in Budapest, where he was head coach, the American women’s squad won 23 medals, nine of which were claimed by UVA swimmers.

Flash forward to July when he will serve as head women’s U.S. Olympic coach for the Games in Paris: DeSorbo is just one example of many who have been carrying on a tradition of former assistants who have honed their skills at the feet of successful predecessors.

Michael J. Stott is an ASCA Level 5 coach, golf and swimming writer. His critically acclaimed coming-of-age golf novel, “Too Much Loft,” is in its third printing, and is available from, Amazon, B&N and book distributors worldwide.


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2 months ago

Thanks. One of the best articles in Swimming World in years.

coach Faisal Hourani
coach Faisal Hourani
2 months ago

thank you i’m happy to see that

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