Frank Busch retirement was much like his career as national team director. He left quietly, saying the right things, with a solid claim to outstanding results during his tenure at the top of American's swimming machine.
While Busch had his critics, his tenure was far less controversial than his predecessor, Mark Schubert, by a mile. Whereas Schubert wielded a heavy hand as National Team Director, Busch was far more subdued. He tapped into the essential truth of leading USA Swimming- that our athletes and coaches could have great success if there was far less top-down meddling in their lives.
It's easy to forget now, but Busch stepped into a messy situation when he took the job in 2011. He had to unravel the "Centers of Excellence" a Schubert brainchild that was an abject failure. He had to face the angry mob of coaches that saw the National Team Director position as an overpaid hindrance to getting where they wanted to go.
Busch was able to calm fears through his more understated approach, but he also made a lot of empty promises along the way. Banking on his own credibility within the coaching community, he assured the anxious masses that USA Swimming would close the technology gap that had emerged between its sorry website and the internet around it.
That promise was never realized, but should not have been surprising given the rumor that Busch didn't even read his own e-mail as head coach of the University of Arizona. USA Swimming's website and knowledge sharing platforms remain woefully behind the times, with their only positive development coming from their partnership with GoSwim to bring technical video to their site.
Still others found it curious that a man who's career was so largely built on college success would be put in charge of an apparatus that mostly dealt with club swimming. I've always found this argument a bit silly, also given that Busch did have a history as a club coach, but the enmity between club and college swimming coaches is real.
The next National Team Director will have tough shoes to fill. Not only will they need to match Busch' coaching chops, but also will face criticism if there is any drop in USA Swimming's world domination.
The list of candidates floating around also exposes the fact that women and minorities are woefully under-represented at the highest level of USA Swimming. If the new director is a middle aged white male, as is likely, here's hoping that they will do more in their tenure to address this intractable problem.