The number of Cal connections to the U.S. Olympic Team continues to grow. Beyond the 10 Bears to already make the team, Cal men’s swimming head coach Dave Durden has been selected to join the coaching staff in Rio de Janeiro.
While men’s head coach Bob Bowman — Michael Phelps’ long-time mentor — and women’s head coach David Marsh were selected quite a while ago, Durden, along with Michigan’s Mike Bottom, Georgia’s Jack Bauerle, Stanford’s Greg Meehan, Indiana’s Ray Looze and NCAP’s Bruce Gemmell — dominant distance freestyler Katie Ledecky’s coach — were named to the coaching staff prior to the last day of competition at Olympic Trials. Durden is coming off an incredible Trials, where he coached six members to the Olympic Team and helped many more swimmers earn finals appearances by swimming personal bests.
Former Bears are continuing to punch their tickets to the 2016 Olympic Games. Before spending the last eight years at Michigan, Bottom coached at Cal from 1997 to 2007, after which Durden took over. Meehan, on the other hand, was one of Durden’s assistant coaches early in Durden’s tenure as a Bear.
In the last nine years, Durden has established Cal as one of the elite collegiate swimming programs. After two fourth-place finishes at the NCAA Championship to start his tenure, Durden led the Bears to seven straight top-two places, including national titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
2016 was a challenging year for Durden. Despite the first dual-meet loss in four years, the Bears ended up in third place at the Pac-12 Championship and as the runner-up at the NCAA Championship. But, by standards set in recent years, that’s fairly run-of-the-mill.
Balancing each individual swimmer’s goals and the team’s expectations is an incredibly difficult task, which Durden only made harder by coaching many post-graduates. While only a small number of his swimmers make the team, Durden had to effectively sacrifice at different times of the year. With eventual Olympic Team qualifiers like Jacob Pebley, Josh Prenot and Ryan Murphy on the roster, Durden chose to send the trio, along with other Olympic hopefuls, to a Olympic Trials preparation meet instead of the Pac-12 Championship.
For Durden, however, making the seemingly-impossible decisions seems easy.
Chris Zheng covers men’s swim. Contact him at [email protected].