Overqualified: "Experienced" Coaches Change NCAA Fates

Post-men's NCAA, the focus is rightly on Texas' dominant victory and the possibility that Eddie Reese is immortal and may go on forever. There were several other NCAA teams that saw their fate dramatically change this year with a common thread.

Each of the programs I'm about to describe added a coach to their staff that was at, near or past retirement age but had success as a head coach. I guarantee these programs are not using these coaches like traditional "assistants". Instead, they are leveraging the strengths of these coaches to dramatically improve the success of their teams.

Mark Bernardino joined the University of South Carolina in 2014 after a long, dominant ACC run at Virginia. Bernardino's ACC championship teams were known for their bruising distance success. Not shockingly, South Carolina saw a significant uptick in distance performance in the years following Bernardino's move to Columbia. 

This year at Men's NCAAs, the Gamecocks scored 54 points between the 500 and 1650 freestyle. That could have landed them a 21st place finish at the meet all by itself. Instead it was the driving force behind South Carolina's 15th place finish at the meet. Head Coach McGee Moody has to be thrilled with the results of his hire. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Indiana managed to add the former head coach of one of their chief conference rivals, Dennis Dale, also in 2014. Dale won seven Big Ten titles at Minnesota, many on the basis of being able to mold fast sprinters from seemingly out of nowhere and produce fast relays.

Sprinting was a weakness of the Hoosier program before Dale's arrival, and now it has become a big strength. This past weekend they put a 200 and 400 freestyle relay in the A-final, and individually got big scoring swims from Blake Pieroni and Vini Lanza.

A coach once told me that Ray Looze and Dale were bitter rivals, but somehow Looze found a way to make peace, and the results was that Indiana is enjoying huge success. They finished 7th this year at Men's NCAAs and 8th at the Women's meet. 

Often head coaches can start a hiring process with a role in mind, then work to fit that role. McGee Moody and Looze found a coach that would make their team better and created a role around that. As we enter another hiring season, those with jobs on offer would be wise to follow suit.

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