Coach Dennis Pursley

2006 ASCA Hall of Fame Inductee

Head Coach, Brophy East Swim Team

After receiving a Master of Arts degree in Secondary Education as a member of the Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society, at the University of Alabama in 1973, Dennis Pursley served a one year apprenticeship under Coach Don Gambril while coaching the University Aquatic Club. In 1974, Coach Pursley returned to his home town as the Head Coach of the Lakeside Swim Club in Louisville, Kentucky. With Coach Pursley at the helm, Lakeside progressed from an unranked status with no regional or national qualifiers to a regional championship title and a top 10 national championship finish. In 1979, he was appointed to the coaching staff of the USA Pan American Games team. In this competition one of his swimmers, Mary T. Meagher, surprised the swimming world by establishing her first of several world records.

From Lakeside Swim Club, Coach Pursley moved on to assume the Head Coaching responsibilities of the Cincinnati Marlins and led them to their first three national championship titles. Eleven swimmers on his 1980 championship team accounted for 28 world rankings (top 25) in individual events and eight Marlin relays were ranked among the top 25 in the world in that same year. After placing six swimmers on the 1980 USA Olympic Team who accounted for two world records and four 1st place world rankings, Coach Pursley was appointed to the USA Olympic Team staff and was awarded 1980 “Coach of the Year” honors by the American Swimming Coaches Association.

In 1981, Coach Pursley was named as the first Head Coach of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) where he served as the Head Coach of the combined team for two years and the men’s team until August, 1984. Six of the AIS athletes who had trained under Pursley (4 men and 2 women) accounted for half of Australia’s medals in the 1984 Olympic Games. Only one of these athletes was ranked among the top 20 in the world (18th) in 1983. After the 1984 Olympic Games, Coach Pursley began a three year term as Head Coach of the Olympian Swim Club in Edmonton, Alberta where his team progressed from fifth to first in provincial championship competition.

During the first decade of Coach Pursley’s career, his swimmers accounted for 7 world records, 12 American Records and 20 US National Championship titles as well as numerous medals in major international competitions – including the Olympic Games and the World Championships.

In 1989, he was appointed as the first National Team Director of USA Swimming and was responsible for all aspects of the National Team program. During his 14 year tenure the medal production of the USA team increased dramatically. The USA team finished first in the medal count in both men’s and women’s competitions in all three Olympiads, culminating with 33 medals (14 gold) in the 2000 Olympics which was described by “Sports Illustrated” magazine, as the greatest team performance of all time. In recognition of his contributions, he was awarded the United States Olympic Committee Chairman’s “Coaching Award” for 2000.

Coach Pursley returned to the deck in 2003 as the Head Coach of the Brophy East Swim Team in Phoenix Arizona, and later that year he was selected as one of the 15 most influential people in the history of USA Swimming. He was inducted into the American Swimming Coaches Hall of Fame in 2006. Throughout his career, he served as a member of the following committees, boards and organizations: AAU Region VI Coaches Association (Chair), AAU Midwest Conference Coaches Association (President), Canadian Swimming Coaches Association Board of Directors, Alberta Coaches Council Executive Committee, Arizona Swimming Board of Directors, USA Swimming Olympic International Operations Committee, International Relations Committee and Senior Swimming Committee.

“Dennis Pursley, (center, Mission Viejo, California) as inducted into the ASCA Hall of Fame as well.” (with Jennifer Gibson and Bill Wadley) – ASCA World Clinic 2006, Awards Banquet

Athletic Accomplishments

  • NCAA Southeastern Conference Champion – 1969
  • Established American record in the 220 yard breaststroke – 1966
  • Twice represented the United States and placed first in the Canadian-American Dual Meet
  • High School All American – 1964, 1965 and 1966

Professional Accomplishments

United States

    • Coached the Cincinnati Marlins to three national championship team titles (two women’s, and one combined men’s and women’s).
    • Appointed to the coaching staff of the 1980 USA Olympic Team, the 1980 USA Women’s International Team, and the 1979 USA Pan American Team.
    • Coached swimmers to seven world records, twelve American records, and twenty US National Championship titles, as well as numerous medals in major international events including the Olympic Games and World Championships.
    • Placed six swimmers on the 1980 USA Olympic Team, more than any other club.
    • Named 1980 Coach of the Year by the American Swimming Coaches Association.
    • Appointed Chairman of the Region VI Coaches Association in 1979 and appointed President of the Midwest Conference Coaches Association in 1978.
    • Awarded the United States Olympic Committee Chairman’s “Coaching Award” in 2000.
    • Selected as one of the “25 Most Influential People” in the history of USA Swimming in 2003.
    • Inducted into the American Swimming Coaches Hall of Fame in 2006.


    • During tenure as head coach of the Australian Institute of Sport, AIS swimmers led the way to Australia’s resurgence as a world power in competitive swimming compiling an undefeated dual meet record competing against top five world ranked teams, i.e., West Germany, Canada and Sweden.
    • Swimmers accounted for more than 50% of Australia’s medals in the Australian upset victory over the Canadians in the 1982 Commonwealth Games.
    • Significantly contributed to Australia’s surprising second place finish to the USA in total medal count at the 1984 Olympic Games.
    • AIS swimmers captured five gold medals and established one US Open record in the 1984 USA National Championships following the Olympic Games.


    • Olympian Swim Club progressed from 5th to 1st in provincial championship competition.
    • Elected to the Board of Directors of the Canadian Swimming Coaches Association, 1986.
    • Elected to the Executive Committee of the Alberta Coaches Council, 1985 and 1986.

Dennis Pursley’s Athletes

    • Mary T. Meagher
    • Lisa Buese
    • Bill Barrett
    • Glenn Mills
    • Stephanie Elkins
    • Kim Carlisle
    • Kim Rhodenbaugh
    • Diane Johannigman
    • Stephanie Elkins
    • Greg Higginson
    • Lori Armbruster
    • Bruce Dorman
    • Lisa Curry
    • Ron McKeon
    • Paul Rowe
    • Greg Fasala
    • David Orbell
    • Tim Ford
    • Georgina Parkes
    • Glenn Beringen
    • Michelle Pearson
    • Suzie Baumer
    • Audrey Moore
    • Mark Stockwell
    • Georgina Parkes
    • Glenn Beringen
    • Rob Woodhouse
    • Sue Landells