2006 ASCA Hall of Fame Inductee

DENNIS PURSLEY

During Dennis Pursley’s coaching tenure he has been a five time Olympic coach, a U.S. Olympic Committee “Coach Of The Year”, an American Swimming Coaches Association “Coach Of The Year”, an American Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee and was recognized in 2003 as one of the “25 Most Influential People in the History of USA Swimming”. He has personally coached swimmers of both genders to world record performances and to the podium of the Olympic Games and/or the long course World Championships in all four strokes and both IMs.

His career began as a graduate assistant coach under Coach Don Gambril while coaching the University Aquatic Club at the University of Alabama. In 1974 Dennis 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 team 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 three national championship team 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 three world records (from Mary T Meagher and Bill Barrett) and four 1st place world rankings, Coach Pursley was appointed to the USA Olympic Team coaching staff and was awarded 1980 “Coach of the Year” honors by the American Swimming Coaches Association.

In 1981, Coach Pursley was named 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 of the men’s team until August, 1984. In the 1984 Olympic Games the AIS led a resurgence in Australian swimming with a second place finish to the United States in the medal count. Six of the AIS athletes who had trained under Pursley (4 men and 2 women) accounted for half of Australia’s medals. 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 U.S. National Championship gold medals as well as numerous medals in major international competitions – including the Olympic Games and the World Championships.

In 1989, Coach Pursley was appointed the first National Team Director of USA Swimming and was responsible for all aspects of the National Team program. During his 14 year tenure in this position the medal production of the USA team increased substantially. 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 presented the United States Olympic Committee Chairman’s “Coach of the Year” 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 25 most influential people in the history of USA Swimming. He was inducted into the American Swimming Coaches Hall of Fame in 2006. In 2008 he was named Head Coach of British Swimming and served in that capacity through the 2012 London Olympics.

After the 2012 Olympics, Coach Pursley returned to the University of Alabama as the head coach to help his alma mater return to a position of national prominence in swimming and diving. After finishing last in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships and qualifying only one swimmer for the NCAA Championships in his first year, Coach Pursley’s men’s team was named “Breakout Team of the Year” by the College Swimming Coaches Association in his second year with a 12th place finish in the NCAA Championships and went on to achieve six consecutive top 15 finishes, including four top 10 finishes and a sixth place finish in 2016 for which he was named the University of Alabama men’s “Coach of the Year”. His women’s team rewrote the school record books establishing new school records in 17 of the 19 events. During his seven year tenure, Coach Pursley’s swimmers won 4 NCAA championship gold medals, 20 SEC championship gold medals and accounted for 3 SEC championship “Swimmer of the Meet” honors and two SEC “Swimmer of the Year” honors. Thirty-five of Coach Pursley’s swimmers earned 161 All-American honors (89 first team and 72 honorable mention). The 33 honors earned by the men’s team in 2016 were the most in school history.

Dennis Pursley’s life and career has been supported and inspired by his Catholic faith and his wife, Mary Jo, and five children, Brian, Lisa, David, Steven and Joseph (JJ).

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

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