‘I Want to Build’: Dara Torres Embraces Challenge of Boston College Coaching Job

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick


02 July 2024, 08:00am

‘I Want to Build’: Dara Torres Embraces Challenge of Boston College Coaching Job

Coaching was never the plan for Dara Torres. But then again, it also wasn’t the plan. So much so that when a friend asked Torres if coaching might be in her future once her daughter went off to college, the Olympian’s answer was, “yes and no.”

It would take the right situation to grasp the 12-time Olympic medalist’s attention, to pique her legendary fire to defy the odds. Boston College was just that situation.

“I don’t want to be thrown in a situation where everything’s just great and you have these top swimmers,” Torres said by phone, a week after BC hired her to lead its men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs. “No, I want to build. I want the challenge of bringing this program sort of back up again.”

Torres’ first coaching position is going to be a rebuild from just about the ground up, tasked with rejuvenating a program that was suspended last September for the entire season due to a hazing scandal.

Torres represents “a fresh, new chapter,” in the words of BC Athletic Director Blake James. She replaces Joe Brinkman, whose staff was suspended in September when the season was paused and dismissed in January, with the program officially suspended through August. Brinkman had been starting his second season in charge.

An icon of swimming, Torres has never been far from the sport. She’s also never been bashful about taking on a challenge, the more naysayers the better it seems. Doubting the winner of four Olympic gold medals and five-time Olympian – who came out of retirement at age 33 to make the Olympics in 2000, then did so again in 2008 age 41 – carries a certain peril.

Coaching, though, has never quite fit into the 57-year-old’s priorities. A single mother, she has devoted the last 18 years to her daughter, Tessa, who starts college this fall. That left time to be many things, including an author, speaker, spokesperson, clinic coach and master’s coach. But coaching at the club or college level was not something she had time for.

Torres didn’t necessarily plan on coaching as an empty-nest alternative. But she followed the events that cost Boston College its season and reached out to the university to see if there was a way she could help.

When the job posted, Torres again reached out, with the first resume she’d compiled in her life and for the first ever series of job interviews. Her ideas and passion for the position helped her land it.

The perspective that she’s bringing is clear.

“These kids have gone through a lot this past year,” she said. “I just think they need a reset, a fresh start, a fresh set of eyes, someone who can help motivate them and help them learn from what happened in the past, but you learn and you move forward and you look to the future. …

“There’s a lot of moving parts of this job, and it was something that I really wanted to be a part of, especially with the tradition at BC of being such an incredible school, the tradition there and their mission statement and what they’re about, I thought that it would be a great fit.”

Though short on coaching experience, Torres is long on life experience. She’s swum for the likes of Randy Reese, Mark Schubert and Richard Quick, coaches who have won dozens of NCAA titles and from which she takes both dos and don’ts. With four older brothers and a long history of training with men, she understands gender dynamics in the pool. When it comes to taking on challenges in the face of prevailing sentiment … that requires no explanation given her track record in.

She’s clear-eyed about the challenges. Boston College is at the bottom of the ACC (the men and women each finished 12th at the conference championships in 2023), with few resources to contend with its much larger, public institutions. That was true even before last year’s fiasco. Her job will require more fundraising than the average college coach’s.

But the starting point also sets a floor from which Torres is confident she can lift the Eagles.

“Since they’ve been at a low this past year, I feel like they have nowhere to go but up,” she said. “I thrive on challenges. This obviously is going to be a challenge.”

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