Matt Mann II (USA/GBR)
Honor Coach (1965)
FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1952 (U.S. Olympic Men’s Swimming Team Head Coach); 13 NCAA team titles at University of Michigan; 8 straight Big Eight conference titles at University of Oklahoma; Developed summer athletic swimming camp in 1920; author of swimming books influencing training and technique.
Matt Mann of Michigan won 8 NCAA team championships in a row, 12 in 15 years and 13 overall to stamp him the U.S.A.’s most successful college coach. His U.S. team won the 1952 Olympics and when retired from Michigan at 70, he went on to 8 years at Oklahoma never losing a Big 8 swimming meet.
Mann’s early swimming was as colorful as the sayings he later wrote on the blackboard. He learned to swim at 8 in Leeds Public Bath, his arms thrust through the rubber rings in Professor Tomlinson’s breaststroke machine, a contraption pulled the length of the pool on a cable. The baths were drawn and filled twice a week, costing a “thrupny bit” the day the water was changed, and a penny on dirty-water day, the only day Matt could afford to swim. When he didn’t have a penny, it was off to the “becks” sluiceways draining from Leeds’ famed woolen mills. If they were dyeing blue serge, he came home blue; brown serge, brown, etc. One day when he was swimming nude in a canal, someone stole his cloths. A policeman marched him nude through town to the station.
Matt Mann would swim anywhere. He became England’s boy champion at 9, a senior champion at 14, acted as companion for the great Barney Kieran when that Australian came to tour England.
Matt emigrated steerage to the USA, was stopped at Ellis Island for insufficient funds, shipped to Toronto in a sealed railroad car with $2.00 left in his pocket. Walking down Yonge Street, he found a room for $1.00 a week, then bought a week’s meal tickets in a bean wagon for his other dollar. “I was on top of the world,” said Matt. “I had no money but my needs were taken care of and I had a whole week to look for a job.” After working as a dry goods clerk in Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo, Matt was fired for too much swimming time off and he became one of the USA’s first full-time, if itinerant, swim coaches. He worked with the early pioneers George Corson, Dr., Commodore Longfellow, Dr. Dudley Sargent; was one of this country’s first high school coaches (Buffalo, 1907), college coaches (Syracuse, 1910) and coached in the first U. S. municipal pool (Brookline, Mass.). He is the only person to have coached at both Harvard and Yale. Mann, whose hunger to win swimming meets was never quenched, whose energy and enthusiasm were never drowned, could remember swimming times but never a name. Although a great seat-of-the-pants psychologist, all the boys were “son” and all the girls “honey”. At one point, the energetic Matt coached the New York Athletic Club, Yale, Brooklyn’s Poly Prep, Lawrenceville, and Navy all in the same season and all winners. He preceded Bob Kiphuth at Yale and began that school’s championship tradition. After a period at the Duluth Boat Club and Detroit Athletic Club, he became Michigan’s first full-time swim coach and started his children’s’ famed camps in Canada from whence 30 boys and girls grew up to make Olympic teams.
Matt Mann believed a coach is a coach no matter what the sport and when he died at 77 after a full day beside a swimming pool, his former Michigan Athletic Director, Fritz Crisler, called him “the greatest coach who ever lived.”