Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Updated: February 2, 7:48 PM ET
Frank Busch to lead USA Swimming
USA Swimming has hired longtime University of Arizona coach Frank Busch as its national team director, a spot left vacant for 2½ months after Mark Schubert was fired.
Busch begins his new job in May, barely a year before the opening of the 2012 London Olympics. In July, he will be head coach of the U.S. women's team at the world championships in Shanghai.
He was an assistant on the 2004 and 2008 U.S. Olympic teams that were overseen by Schubert, whom Busch described as "a good friend."
However, Busch said on a conference call Wednesday that he didn't consult with Schubert while making what he described as "a very difficult decision" to accept the new job.
Busch's contract runs through the 2016 Olympics.
In hiring Busch, USA Swimming changed the title that previously went with the job. Schubert was known as the head coach and general manager of the U.S. national team.
"We thought it was best to rename the title to national team director but no real change to the overall scope and nature of the position," USA Swimming president Bruce Stratton said.
Schubert was fired last fall for reasons that have never been specified. USA Swimming has steadfastly maintained that his departure was a private personnel matter. He was under contract through 2013.
"I really don't foresee any major changes," Busch said. "Mark did a tremendous job and I've known him a long time. He's a good friend. Very few people have contributed as much to the sport as he did."
USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus said in a statement that Busch's accomplishments are extraordinary, but equally important is the fact that he "is a person of impeccable character and highly respected by athletes and coaches."
Busch's hiring culminates a search that began in November. The national governing body said candidates were reviewed by a committee that included both coach and athlete representatives.
Busch will continue coaching the men's and women's teams at Arizona through the end of the season, his 22nd at the Tucson school. He'll also be leaving his job as coach of the Tucson Ford Dealers Aquatics club team to move to Colorado Springs, Colo., where the governing body is based.
"It was a very difficult decision when you've been somewhere for 22 years," he said. "It was difficult talking to the team yesterday and there were all sorts of mixed emotions, but I just felt strongly it was the right time in my life to do this."
During his tenure with the club team, Busch helped develop 34 Olympians, including 10 medalists. One of his proteges was two-time Olympic champion Amanda Beard, who is still competing.
Five-time Olympian Dara Torres, who is training for the London Games, knows Busch from trips with the national team.
"I think he will be an awesome addition to the USA Swimming family," she said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "He has a lot of experience, the only downside is I'm sure his [Arizona] swimmers will miss him dearly."
USA Swimming said Busch is responsible for the "overall vision and leadership" for the nation's elite coaches and swimmers. He will be involved in developing talent and mentoring coaches, helping the group's international relations efforts, formulating the high performance plan and managing USA Swimming's national team staff.
Busch will serve as the national team leader at international meets and work with the designated head men's and women's coaches at those events.
"I see myself as someone who tries to guide people and let them make their own decision on things," he said. "I'm not a micro-manager. My job is to help them be comfortable in the situation so they can have the most success."
In November after his firing, Schubert said, "It was never any secret that our goal as a national team was to try to win all the gold medals at the London Olympics."
Asked if he had set a medal goal for the London Games, Busch replied, "Absolutely not. My expectations are to focus on the process of what we'll do to get to that place to achieve the best and highest success we can."
On the pool deck, Busch said he wants to be a facilitator to the coaches. On the administrative side, he said, "I certainly don't see myself as being in control of anyone or anything. It's not really what needs to be done. My job is to help everyone be successful."