With Sunday’s announcement that Jeremy Kipp officially resigned as head coach of the men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs at USC, everyone’s favorite game, name the next head coach, has begun.
While USC has lost some of its luster in recent years and fallen behind Pac-12 opponents Cal and Stanford (and increasingly Arizona State on the men’s side ), the gig is still a top Division I position that could attract from most programs. in the countryside. The list of candidates is almost endless for a job like this – maybe not akin to a job like Texas, but it’s the next level before that.
That means a potentially massive list of candidates that would include the top assistant from virtually every successful program in the country, as well as every top club coach who might be looking to make the jump.
Below, we’ve put together a list of people who seem to be at the right time and place for this particular gig. This isn’t necessarily a list of coaches we think are the most ready for a big gig, it’s a list of coaches we think are ready for this big gig (the best example being coaches like Stefanie Moreno in Georgia and Wyatt Collins in Texas, both of whom seem destined to take over from their impending retirement bosses).
Regardless of who they choose, USC is on its third or fourth head coach in three seasons. They need stability, and I think (and hope) that will guide their decision-making — especially since Kipp is far from the first controversy USC has run in its athletics department at the course of the last decade.
That makes me lean towards someone who has head coaching experience, and specifically collegiate head coaching experience. There are a lot of club coaches who have been very successful and seem to want to take the leap, but for me, USC is in no position to take a risk.
The obvious choice
Lea Maurer, interim head coach, USC – The most obvious choice, and the one I think USC is headed towards, is the program’s current interim head coach. Lea Maurer. The biggest feather in her cap is her experience as a Pac-12 head coach at Stanford for 7 seasons, where she coached the women. She seems to have the support of alumni and parents, especially after helping the team jump to the Pac 12 this year. The men’s team finished 4th with 449 points, which was their best result since 2018 and an improvement of 35 points even with Arizona State back in the mix. The women’s team finished 3rd with 1373.5 points, an improvement of 367.5 points from last season.
And let’s quash the narrative that she was a flop at Stanford. It’s unclear where that came from, but the Cardinal has never finished below 5th place at the NCAA championships and reached 2nd place in 2010.
Top college applicants
Tyler Fenwick, Associate Head Coach, Virginia – Tyler Fenwick loves Southern California, so he’s going to think very hard about this position. As associate head coach of the nation’s most successful women’s program and a rapidly improving men’s program, he would get interviews for many gigs. He understands the DeSorbo model for rebuilding a program, he understands the world of social media that dominates Southern California and how to successfully apply it to recruiting, and he has a hot hand.
Rachel Stratton-Mills, Associate Head Coach, Arizona State – Stratton-Mills has no experience as a collegiate head coach, but Bob Bowman gives him a lot of responsibility at Arizona State, a growing program. She also has experience as a club head coach at Asphalt Green in New York. It’s not the same as the collegiate head coaching experience, but the club head coach + collegiate associate head coach is a pretty solid foundation.
Herbie Behm, assistant coach, Arizona State – While he deviates from what I said earlier about head coaches, the temptation of a hot-handed sprint coach within the same conference might be enough to change that. Behm is clearly smart, committed, eager to learn and grow – sometimes that can be as valuable as experience (and those are often not the qualities of problem coaches).
Katie Robinson, Head Coach, North West – Although it didn’t work out in the end, there was Something that USC liked about Jeremy Kipp when they interviewed him. Robinson was Kipp’s assistant at Northwestern, her last stop, and she took over after he left and continued the upward momentum of that program. Perhaps most importantly, this includes continued success in recruiting to an academically elite expensive private school in an urban environment. If she can do that with Chicago winters, imagine what she could do with LA weather. I don’t know if Robinson is looking, or if she feels like she still has unfinished business at Northwestern, but it doesn’t look like it will be long before she has the opportunity to move on to one of 10 best programs.
I can dream, can’t I?
Ben Titley, unemployed – I think Ben Titley’s next job will be closer to home in Europe, with twin babies on the way, but after leaving the High Performance Center in Toronto, Canada, he’s on the lookout for a new concert. His group in Toronto leading up to the Olympics, especially with collegiate swimmers Taylor Ruck and Maggie MacNeil at home, was arguably the best in the world. He has absolutely no college coaching experience, so he should be paired with a very experienced associate head coach. This one is incredibly unlikely, but coincidentally at the time, it’s fun to think about.
Ron Aitken, Head Coach, Sandpipers of Nevada – Aitken has put three swimmers, all women, on the Tokyo 2020 U.S. Olympic team, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of her 27-year success with the Nevada Sandpipers. Being in Nevada, its local attraction and reputation is there too. No inside information, but I feel like Aitken wants to get into the college game, and now is the time to capitalize. But, given his length in a specific program, with no college experience, I don’t think now is the time or the place, although I know many club coaches across the country want to see him be the canary-in the coal mine for proving club coaches can make that leap. If I’m writing the future I like a scenario where whoever gets hired as head coach brings in Aitken as a partner (I think that’s a really good situation for this move) with eyes on his own program all the way.