Duke swimming and diving head coach Dan Colella dies at 60

Duke head coach Dan Colella died Friday at 60 years old after a battle with cancer, according to a team release

Colella, the fifth head coach in the program’s history, led the team for 16 seasons with an eye toward talent development and strong postseason performances. Under his leadership, Duke men’s and women’s teams made NCAA Championship appearances for the past 13 seasons and seen at least one ACC individual champion at seven of the past 12 conference championship meets. During his tenure, Duke sent representatives to the 2012, 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games, and has qualified multiple swimmers for the 2024 Olympic Trials.

The Blue Devils’ first-year class this season is one of the best in program history, with Colella’s latest recruiting class for the Duke women ranked seventh nationally. The women’s program was also brought to full scholarship status and its coaching staff was expanded under his direction, according to SwimSwam. 

Colella is remembered for his mentorship and guidance. 

“This is a sad day for the swimming community. Each and every interaction with Dan felt genuine – he’d ask how you were doing, about your family, and you knew he cared about your response. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dan’s family and the Duke community,” Stanford head women’s coach Greg Meehan told SwimSwam. 

Mike Murray, president of the American Swimming Coaches’ Association, told SwimSwam that Colella was “a tremendous coach, mentor and friend to so many in our business.”

Prior to Duke, Colella was head coach of the women’s swimming program at Tennessee for 12 years, where 10 of his 12 teams finished in the nation’s top 25. He graduated from Sewanee: The University of the South in 1984, where he served as captain of the school’s swimming team for two years. At the time of his graduation, Colella was the university’s all-time leading scorer in championship meets. 

Colella is survived by his wife, Victoria, and their four children. A memorial service will be held Jan. 15, in the Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center.

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Milla Surjadi | Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator

Milla Surjadi is a Trinity junior and a diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator of The Chronicle's 119th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 118.


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