The fifth head coach in school history, head coach Dan Colella has helped the Duke men’s and women’s swimming and diving squads make great strides in each of his nine years at the helm of the program. Under Colella’s direction, the Duke men and women have made appearances at the NCAA Championships in each of the past six years and continue to strengthen their reputation within the Atlantic Coast Conference, all while adding top recruiting classes from around the globe.
Development of talent and strong performances in the postseason have become a hallmark of Colella’s tenure in Durham, as the program has produced at least one ACC individual champion at each of the past six conference championship meets. Duke has also built toward success on the national and international levels, sending student-athletes to the NCAA Championships, U.S. Olympic Team Trials, the FINA World Championships and the 2012 Olympic Games.
The 2013-14 campaign saw the Blue Devil women take a school-record six swimmers to the NCAA Championship, qualifying a relay to the national meet for the first time. Individually, Christine Wixted garnered the first All-America honors of her career in the 200-yard breaststroke, while on the men’s side Nick McCrory became the first athlete in NCAA Championship history to win four national championships in men’s platform diving. He captured his fourth title in thrilling fashion to round out a storied collegiate career with 11 All-America accolades.
McCrory also solidified his legacy as the most decorated diver in the history of the ACC, sweeping the three disciplines once again at the 2014 ACC Championships. He was joined by Michael Miller (400 IM) and Lauren Weaver (100 freestyle, 100 butterfly) in earning All-ACC distinction.
In a historic showing for the program during the summer of 2012, McCrory and fellow Blue Devil diver Abby Johnston represented the United States at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Johnston and Kelci Bryant garnered the United States’ first Olympic medal in a synchronized diving event, taking silver in the women’s synchronized 3-meter competition. One day later, McCrory and David Boudia brought home the second medal for the U.S., a bronze in the men’s synchronized platform event.
Nine Colella-coached swimmers competed at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Neb., including 2011 graduate and All-American distance swimmer Ashley Twichell, who also won 5K and 10K open water national championships earlier that spring and earned a gold and bronze medal at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai, China.
The Blue Devils continue to establish a legacy of excellence in the pool, boasting 25 All-America selections over the past eight seasons. Duke swimmers and divers have also captured five NCAA individual titles and totaled 38 podium finishes at the ACC Championships under Colella’s watch. The program record books have been completely re-written in that time, with the oldest standing school record dating back to just 2009.
Colella has led the Blue Devils to a number of program firsts in recent years, highlighted by the five NCAA individual titles. The 200 medley relay team of Steven Gasparini, Piotr Safronczyk, Ben Tuben and Ben Hwang broke an ACC record during the 2011-12 campaign with a 1:25.98 clocking. Safronczyk and Tuben went on to represent Duke at the 2012 NCAA Championships, becoming the first Blue Devil swimmers on the men’s side to receive All-America honors in over 30 years. The men’s and women’s teams each broke into the top 20 nationally a year earlier, with the Blue Devil women earning a 19th-place finish at the 2011 NCAA Championships to place among the top 20 programs for the first time in school history. Twichell’s 16th-place performance at the 2008 NCAA Championships gave Duke its first All-American since Olympian Nancy Hogshead in 1981.
At the conference level, the Duke men took sixth at the ACC Championships in 2010 and fifth in 2011 while the women placed sixth for three consecutive years from 2008 to 2010. The 2011 conference meet saw the men’s 200 freestyle relay of Hwang, Spencer Booth, Tuben and Nick Garvy shatter the previous school record with a mark of 1:18.52 and collect the program’s first ACC crown in a relay event.
Equally as impressive in the classroom, the program has landed student-athletes on the All-ACC Academic Teams and ACC Academic Honor Roll each year since Colella’s arrival in 2005, in addition to featuring two Academic All-Americans in Katie Ness (2006) and Jessica Lyden (2012). Two Blue Devils have been awarded scholarships for postgraduate study, with Allie Speidel (2010) receiving a Marshall Scholarship and Johnston (2013) the Weaver-James-Corrigan Award from the ACC as well as a postgraduate scholarship from the NCAA.
At Tennessee (1990-2005)
Colella came to Duke after a successful 12-year tenure as the head coach of the women’s swimming program at the University of Tennessee. He arrived in Knoxville in 1990 as the assistant women’s swimming coach and served in that capacity until being promoted to head coach in 1993.
Ten of Colella’s 12 teams at Tennessee finished in the nation’s top 25. At the 2005 NCAA Championships, his team garnered 11 All-America honors and broke five school records. Colella coached 34 student-athletes to a total of 143 All-America honors and 18 of his student-athletes earned Southeastern Conference titles.
In just his third year of serving as the head coach at Tennessee, Colella guided one of the school’s most successful teams to a top-10 showing at the NCAA Championships. Along the way, Colella’s student-athletes notched 30 All-America nods and Nicole deMan won the school’s first NCAA individual championship in the 50 freestyle.
Colella’s Early Years
From 1986-90 Colella was the assistant swimming coach at Indian River Community College in Fort Pierce, Fla., where he helped guide his team to four NJCAA men’s and women’s championships.
Extensive Swimming & Diving Experience
Colella’s coaching accomplishments have not been limited to the collegiate level, as he has tutored athletes who have competed in the Olympic Games, Olympic Trials, Pan American Games, Pan Pacific Games, World Championships and World University Games. Three of his swimmers made appearances at the 2004 Olympic Trials and nine competed at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, while former Tennessee swimmer Fabiola Molina represented Brazil at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Colella earned a bachelor’s degree in natural resource management and geology from Sewanee, The University of the South in 1984. In addition to being a member of the Order of the Gownsmen, an academic honor society, and Beta Theta Pi, Colella was a member of the school’s swimming team. He served as captain for two years and earned three accolades as the team’s MVP from 1981-83, as well as two Southern College Athletic Conference titles - the 100 and 200 backstroke in 1981. Specializing in butterfly and the IM events, Colella was the university’s all-time leading scorer in championship meets when he graduated.
Colella and his wife, Victoria, have four children - Henry, George, Ellinor and Caroline - and reside in Chapel Hill, N.C.