The swimming world lost one of its greatest coaches on June 10, when Richard Quick died from an inoperable brain tumor at 66. He won more NCAA Divison I championships than any other coach—13, including five straight women's titles at Texas in the 1980s, seven women's titles at Stanford after that, and the men's crown at Auburn this spring—and in three terms as U.S. Olympic coach (1988, '96 and 2000) his swimmers won 59 medals. Among his top pupils were gold medal winners Jenny Thompson, Summer Sanders and Rowdy Gaines. But what made him such a success is a matter of some debate.
He was known for his innovative and grueling workouts (summer three-a-days were not unheard of, and he occasionally forced swimmers to push his car to get it started after they finished their workouts), and he was willing to try any new gimmick—be it equipment, diet or gadget—that might give his swimmers an edge. But Sanders, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist in the 200 butterfly who was coached by Quick at Stanford from 1990 through '92, says Quick's greatest gift was his ability to instill confidence in his swimmers. "Richard was in a league of his own when it came to making people believe they can do the impossible," she says. "I had goal times that were ridiculous; I don't know if people have gone that fast yet."
Unrelentingly enthusiastic on the pool deck—Sanders recalls him belting out country and western tunes at the beginning of 5:45 a.m. workouts—Quick had a distinctive holler, "Ga-ga-GO!", during races that was sadly missing last weekend at the Santa Clara Grand Prix (page 29), one of his favorite meets. "You could walk in during a race and the crowd would be roaring, but you could always hear Richard above it all," national team director Mark Schubert said on Friday. "When I walked in here, I missed that. It seems he should be here."