Dennis Pursley, former National Team Director of USA Swimming and personal coach to Mary T Meagher, one of the great legends of world swimming, is to be Britain Head Coach from October. His appointment follows the departure of Bill Sweetenham and the appointment of Michael Scott as Performance Director.
Currently at Auburn, Pursley was selected as one of the '25 Most Influential People' in the history of USA Swimming in 2003. Quite a claim. 'Dennis Pursley is one of the most recognised names in the swimming world,' said coach Richard Quick at the time.
Pursley will lead Britain into a home Olympic Games in London 2012. Scott said: 'I'm delighted to have someone of Dennis's calibre leading our efforts on the pool deck' said Scott. 'He's got an impeccable track record around the globe and led the U.S. to new heights when leading their Olympic teams.The Head Coach will be dedicated to working with Intensive Training Centres and coaches around the country and will assume the role at World Championships and the 2012 Olympics.
'Whereas Dennis won't be coaching individual athletes, he will become the technical leader and will work in partnership with myself as NPD to deliver the best results. He's personally coached some outstanding swimmers and the record books reflect this. I'm looking forward to working with him in the future as we take British Swimming to a new level.'
Britain has never technically had a head coach before, Sweetenham having fulfilled that role but under the banner of performance guru. It was no secret that the Australian would have wished to have held the position of head coach and to have spent more time on the pool deck in Britain, while letting someone like Scott handle the office-based aspects of the performance job. I
Pursley spent 14 years as National Team Director of USA Swimming. He led the way at three Olympic Games at which both men and women from America dominated the medals table. Pursley, who has worked closely with Sweetenham in the past and advised the Australian while he was in Britain, has been head coach at the Australian Institute of Sport and to Canada. He is currently coaching at Auburn University in Alabama.
Pursley said: 'I'm excited and honoured by this opportunity. From the outside looking in, Michael Scott and before him Bill Sweetenham have done an outstanding job in turning the ship around and it's now very much pointing in the right direction. What I've observed over recent years is a higher level of intensity and confidence within the British team than I had seen before and this is something that is very encouraging for the future.
'There is still a whole lot of work to be done. Michael has continued to move forward concepts such as the Intensive Training Centres and these are a very important step in the right direction. Saying that it's still going to be a very big challenge to get things in place and develop the potential for the next quadrennial.'
Pursley will approach the job with a very open mind and will be looking to athletes and coaches to help formulate the plan as British Swimming looks towards 2012 and beyond, said British Swimming.
'I'm not going to come in and pretend to know what the issues and answers are to British Swimming, I'll be an outsider looking in,' said Pursley. 'I have a lot of ideas from my time in world swimming but I won't presume what works elsewhere will work in Britain. My first few months will be spent observing, talking with athletes and coaches, and developing the plan to get the right results in 2012.
'My perception is that a lot of groundwork has been done and the foundation is now laid for British Swimming to build upon. The programme is moving in the right direction and the big carrot at the end is the Olympics in 2012. This is an outstanding incentive and opportunity.'
Pursley added: 'I wasn't really looking for a career change. I was content with the position I had at Auburn University and enjoying that opportunity but the more conversations I had with Michael the more excited I became. From a British Swimming perspective the work will continue on after 2012 but we need to take the next big step towards the ultimate goal and I feel very proud to be involved in it. It's important to get everyone to come on board, to work together for the good of the team effort and then miracles can happen. I've seen it over and over again, it has to be a team working together and this is a message I will work hard to deliver.'
There was no information from British Swimming about the level of remuneration being offered but there is a general understanding that you get what you pay for. Pursley is among the very best Britain could have hoped for.
Pursley - A Potted Profile:
After receiving a Master of Arts degree 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.
1979: appointed to the coaching staff of the USA Pan-American Games team. Mary T. Meagher sets first of several world records.
After placing six swimmers on the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team who accounted for two world records and four first-place world rankings, Pursley was appointed to the U.S. Olympic Team staff and was awarded 1980 Coach of the Year honours by the American Swimming Coaches Association.
1981: named the first head coach of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) where he served as 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 (four men and two women) accounted for half of Australia's medals in the 1984 Olympic Games.
Post-1984 Olympic Games, he began a three-year term as head coach of the Olympian Swim Club in Edmonton, Alberta.
During the first decade of Dennis Pursley's career, his swimmers accounted for seven world records, 12 American Records and 20 U.S. National Championship titles.
Pursley is married to Mary Jo, and the couple have five children, Lisa, Brian, David, Steven and J.J.