The University of Utah announced yesterday that head coach Joe Dykstra is resigning after 9 years at the helm of the program. With the new head coaching vacancy at a Pac-12 program, let’s ponder who could fill Dysktra’s shoes as the next head coach of the Utes.
Starting in-house, Utah currently has 2 associate head coaches. The longest serving of those associate head coaches is Michele Lowry, who has been with the program for 9 years. Lowry is the head distance coach at Utah, one of the program’s most successful groups. She was the primary coach of Bence Kiraly, who became Utah’s first Pac-12 champion when he won the 1650 in 2014. He would go on to finish 4th in the 1650 at NCAAs that year. Prior to her time in Utah, Lowry spent 3 seasons as an associate coach at North Texas, in which time the program saw considerable success in the distance events.
Serving alongside Lowry in an associate head coach is Jonas Persson, who returned to Utah in 2019 after serving as the head coach at Toledo for 3 seasons. Persson is the head sprint coach, taking on the primary role in coaching Cooper DeRyk to a B finals appearance in the 50 free at last year’s NCAAs. Persson was himself a sprinter, competing for his home country of Sweden at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Outside of those currently on staff, one of the most intriguing potential candidates is Arizona State assistant coach Herbie Behm. Behm is an interesting candidate for several reasons. Firstly, Behm coached at Utah for 2 seasons, before being hired in his current role at ASU by Bob Bowman. While at Utah, Behm coached the sprint groups, and during his 2 seasons with the program, 20 swimmers broke Utah program records.
Since arriving at Arizona State, Behm has continued to handle the sprint groups. If you follow him on Twitter, you know Behm is very technically focused and physiologically minded in his coaching. Given the success of the program while he was at Utah, and the current success of Arizona State, it may be time for Behm to take the next step and accept a head coach position.
Another name that comes to mind is Lisa Ebeling, currently the head coach of Northern Colorado. Ebeling, as one of our readers noted on the article about Dykstra’s retirement, is another coach who previously served at Utah. She was on staff at Utah for their first season in the Pac-12 Conference, during which they broke 15 program records. Following her time at Utah, Ebeling took on a an assistant coach role at Alabama, where she was also the director of recruiting. In 2016, she was named head coach of Northern Colorado. UNC’s program has thrived under Ebeling’s leadership, moving up the ranks in the Western Athletic Conference.
TCU head coach James Winchester is another former Utah coach who could return. Winchester was an assistant in Salt Lake City from 2012-2015, where he also served as director of recruiting, and even, interim head coach before Dykstra was hired. He then left to become the head coach of George Washington, a role in which he served for 3 years. During those 3 years, George Washington had NCAA qualifiers in each year, and Winchester was even named the 2018 Men’s Coach of the Year at the CSCAA National Invitation Championships.
Winchester has been building the TCU program for the past 4 seasons, getting the Horned Frogs to a 2nd place men’s finish at this year’s Big 12 Championships, and 3rd place in the women’s meet. With a ton of head coaching experience at the NCAA level, and a long track record of building programs, I would be surprised if Winchester isn’t under consideration to the position at Utah.
UNLV’s Ben Loorz is another possibility. Loorz took over the Rebels program in 2016, and since 2017, UNLV has qualified swimmers to NCAAs every single season, a wildly impressive achievement for a mid major program. In addition to coaching the UNLV swimmers, Loorz helps coach Kasia Wasick, a former volunteer assistant with UNLV. Wasick has become a world class sprinter in the past handful of years, finishing 5th in the 50 free at the Tokyo Olympics last summer.
Loorz also has a connection to Utah, where he served as a graduate assistant during the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons.