It’s not every day that a legend must be replaced.
Nevertheless, Bob Bowman was elated upon learning that he had
been chosen to succeed the retiring Jon Urbanchek as the Michigan
men’s swimming coach, effective in September.
“It’s an honor, something that you really dream
about,” Bowman said. “I’m really looking forward
to getting to know all the guys on the team and immersing myself in
the atmosphere of Michigan.”
Bowman will leave the North Baltimore Aquatic Club — where
he has coached since 1996 — for Ann Arbor, following the
conclusion of the Summer Olympics. Despite a lack of collegiate
coaching experience, Bowman’s track record speaks for itself.
He has coached 10 U.S. National Team members throughout the course
of his career, including Michael Phelps — perhaps the
world’s top swimmer. Bowman has become well-respected both
domestically and on the international stage.
“Bob is a marquee coach,” Urbanchek said.
“He’s probably the most recognizable American coach.
He’s a person who can take the program to the next
In the end, the search for Urbanchek’s replacement came
down to Bowman and another well-qualified candidate: Michigan
assistant coach Eric Namesnik. Namesnik spent the past 16 years
working with Urbanchek — eight years as a swimmer followed by
an additional eight as a coach. Many had expected Namesnik to wind
up with the job, but either choice would have been a good one for
the Michigan swimming program.
“(Namesnik) is a loyal Michigan man,” Urbanchek
said. “He’s probably just a few years away from having
all the experience he needs. (Bowman) has a wealth of experience.
Michigan swimming is in good hands, (but) I would have been happy
either way. We’re all going to rally behind Bob
Bowman also has nothing but respect for Namesnik, both in and
out of the pool.
“He’s just a fantastic guy and a long-time friend of
mine,” Bowman said.
Urbanchek claims he had no part in the selection.
“I took myself out of the process,” he said.
“I didn’t want to get involved with that.”
The hire also means that there is suddenly a clear-cut favorite
in Phelps’ college search. Though he has already moved onto
the professional ranks and signed endorsement contracts, which
prohibit him from swimming for Michigan, it is extremely likely
that the 18-year-old superstar — who appeared on the cover of
ESPN The Magazine last month — will be walking around campus
this fall. If he does attend classes at Michigan, Phelps will swim
for Club Wolverine, Urbanchek’s professional and
post-graduate swimming program, which Bowman will also take
At last weekend’s Councilman Classic Grand Prix meet in
Indianapolis, Ind., Phelps — whom Urbanchek calls “the
world’s greatest swimmer” — was seen wearing
“(Phelps) has always dreamed of coming to Michigan,”
Bowman said. “(But right now), we’re focused on our
preparations for Athens.”
Whether or not Phelps comes to Michigan, the program has
acquired quite a valuable asset in Bowman, who sees his new
situation as ideal.
“There’s a lot of talent on the team,” Bowman
said. “I’m looking forward to bringing in some
student-athletes who can add to that.”