For the first time in 27 years, a new face will be guiding the Duke’s men’s and women’s swimming team. Athletic Director Joe Alleva announced June 10 that Dan Colella will take over as head coach of the swimming program.
Colella has spent the last 12 seasons as the head coach of the women’s swimming team at Tennessee. He replaces former head coach Bob Thompson, who retired May 18 after nearly three decades leading the Blue Devils in the pool.
“We are thrilled to get a coach with Dan’s experience and expertise to lead our swimming program,” Alleva said. “His background, from both an athletic and academic standpoint, speaks for itself. It is a great fit for our University and our program.”
While in Knoxville, Tenn. Colella coached 10 teams to top-25 finishes. He also produced 34 swimmers who earned a total of 143 All-American honors. In contrast, Thompson had just two All-Americans in his tenure, but unlike the Lady Volunteers Duke does not offer scholarships in swimming. Colella admits that coaching a program without scholarships will introduce obstacles he was unaccustomed to at his previous job, but he said he is looking forward to the challenges.
“They are true student-athletes,” Colella said. “Obviously the demands of a school like Duke University are extremely high, but I also know the type of students that go to Duke are extremely driven. I’ve had the fortune of talking to a number of swimmers already since my hiring. Everyone is real excited.”
One of the reasons he decided to leave Tennessee was the lofty expectations that “started to affect the enjoyment of coaching,” he said. Although he realizes there is a strong drive to succeed at Duke as well, Colella said the administration made it clear during his interview that the student-athlete experience is similarly important.
“From 15 years of collegiate coaching one of the things I’ve been telling athletes is that I want them to really appreciate and understand that it’s not just about what it says up on the scoreboard,” Colella said. “There is a lot more that you’re going to experience over these four years.”
A graduate of the University of the South in Sewannee, Tenn., Colella officially begins July 1.