One of the nation’s top collegiate coaches, Rich DeSelm is now in his eighth year as the head swimming coach at the University of North Carolina after serving for one year as the chief assistant and head coach designate under former mentor Frank Comfort. Every year, DeSelm is leading his alma mater to new heights in the swimming pool and the classroom.
Most recently DeSelm was named a U.S. Swimming National Team coach for the calendar year 2014, the highest honor U.S. Swimming can bestow on a coach.
The program has made great strides under DeSelm’s tutelage in the past seven years. DeSelm had been a highly successful head coach at Davidson College and a long-time assistant at perennial Top 10 program Florida before he assumed the full-time head coaching duties at Carolina on July 1, 2007.
The Tar Heels had an outstanding 2013-14 season. Meredith Hoover earned first-team All-America honors for the second straight year to lead individual honors by the squad. The women finished 19th nationally and moved up to second in the ACC. The men had another solid campaign and finished third in the ACC. The teams combined for an 18-4 dual meet mark. During the course of the year the women set eight new school short course records and the men established seven University marks. A total of 48 swimmers and divers were named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll, the most in the history of the Carolina aquatics program.
In 2012-13, DeSelm led the Tar Heels to another brilliant season in the pool. Both teams finished in the top three at the Atlantic Coast Conference championships and UNC had the men’s and women’s ACC swimmers of the year in the same season for the first time since 1996. The women’s 12th place finish at the NCAA Championships was the highest placing in 11 seasons. Eleven Tar Heels earned All-America honors at the NCAA Championships. UNC set 13 short course school records and seven long course University marks. During the summer months, Stephanie Peacock won a pair of medals at the World University Games and Tom Luchsinger won the U.S. national title in the 200-meter butterfly, the first Tar Heel man to win a title since 1996. Luchsinger was also the first UNC man to swim for the U.S. at the World Championships since 1998.
DeSelm was also named the ACC Women’s Swimming Coach of the Year for the second year in a row, the first back-to-back designation for a Tar Heel head coach since Frank Comfort in 2001 and 2002. In December 2012, Peacock set NCAA records in the 1000-yard freestyle and 1650-yard freestyle under DeSelm’s tutelage.
In 2011-12, DeSelm led Carolina to one of its most successful combined seasons in history. Forty-eight Tar Heels qualified for the 2012 Olympics Trials, UNC swimmers combined to set 24 records, the Tar Heel men finished in the Top 15 for the third straight year and the Carolina women placed 19th at the NCAA meet.
After a 14th-place finish at the 2012 NCAA meet, UNC’s achieved back-to-back-to-back NCAA Top 15 finishes for the first time since 1956-58. The 19th-place finish by the UNC women was the team’s best finish since 2003. In August 2012, junior Stephanie Peacock and senior Tom Luchsinger were named to the U.S. National Team.
In 2011-12, DeSelm was named ACC Women’s Coach of the Year and Peacock swept the ACC Swimmer of the Year honor and the MVP award at the ACC Championships. Peacock won the NCAA championship in the 1650-yard freestyle in an NCAA record time and she placed third in the 500-yard freestyle. It was the first NCAA championship for a UNC woman since 2003 (Jessi Perruquet in the 200-yard freestyle) and Steve Cebertowicz finished sixth in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyles at the NCAA meet, the first time a Tar Heel man has made the championship final in both events since Pete Worthen in 1965.
In September 2011, U.S. Swimming named DeSelm to the National Team staff. This came on the heels of his first-ever international head coaching assignment in August 2011 when he piloted the ship for the U.S. men’s team at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China. Two Tar Heel student-athletes mentored by DeSelm won bronze medals at the those Games — Tyler Harris in the 400-meter individual medley and Stephanie Peacock in the 400-meter freestyle.
The 2010-11 season was also a magnificent one under DeSelm’s tutelage. The men and women both took second in the conference championships with the women achieving their highest point total in four years. The women garnered their third successive NCAA Top 25 finish while the men finished 14th at NCAAs, the highest team finish in 18 years.
UNC’s women won five individual titles and two relay championships at the ACC meet and the men won five individual crowns. Altogether, UNC rewrote the short course record book for both teams with nine new school records on the women’s side and 12 on the men’s ledger sheet. Five school records fell during the long course season in summer 2011.
Individually, Tyler Harris placed third in the 400 IM at the NCAA meet, the highest individual placing by a UNC man since 1966. Joe Kinderwater copped first-team All-America honors in the 1650-yard freestyle and became only the third men’s swimmer in Carolina history to win first-team honors all four years. The men’s 800-yard freestyle relay garnered first-team All-America accolades, the first Tar Heel relay to do so in 18 seasons. Carly Smith, Layne Brodie and Tyler Harris each won a pair of individual ACC titles and Tommy Wyher captured the men’s 100-yard backstroke at the ACC meet, becoming only the 20th individual in ACC history to win the same event four years in a row. Tyler Harris was named the ACC Men’s Swimming Scholar-Athlete of the Year, following in the footsteps of Chip Peterson who won the award a year earlier.
DeSelm has been an elite coach at every level during his more than three decades in college coaching. As an assistant coach at North Carolina (1978-93) and Florida (2000-06), he assisted on teams that won 16 conference championships and placed in the Top 25 on 36 occasions at the NCAA Championships, including 21 Top 10 finishes. As a head coach at Davidson his teams won seven conference championships and placed in the Top 10 of the ECAC Championships seven times in eight years.
A team captain, first-team All-America and long-time assistant coach at Carolina, DeSelm earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from UNC in 1978. He went on to earn a master’s degree from Duke in 1988 in liberal studies. He swam at Carolina from 1974-78 as a distance freestyler. He was the captain of coach Frank Comfort’s first team in 1978 when he was the squad’s most valuable swimmer. In 1976, DeSelm was a first-team All-America selection in the 800-yard freestyle relay.
DeSelm served as head coach designate in 2006-07, and became the head coach when Frank Comfort retired on June 30, 2007. Comfort was the winningest dual-meet swimming coach in college history when he retired and he led Carolina to 26 ACC championships in his 30-year tenure. DeSelm had previously worked as Comfort’s No. 1 assistant for 15 seasons from 1978-93, years in which the program competed at a very high level in both the conference and nationally. In DeSelm’s sole year as the head coach designate, Carolina’s women claimed the ACC title for the first time in five years and both the men and women improved their NCAA finishes from the previous campaign. Sixteen swimmers and divers were named to the 2007 All-ACC Team.
In his first year at the helm of the Carolina program in 2007-08, DeSelm coached the Tar Heels to second-place finishes at the ACC Championships. The men’s second-place finish was their highest placing since 2001. For the first time since 2004, three Tar Heel men achieved All-America honors. Tyler Harris won the ACC title and set a UNC record in the 400 IM. Joe Kinderwater claimed the ACC championship and first-team All-America honors in the 1650 freestyle. He set school records in the 1000 and 1650 freestyles while making the finals of the 2008 Olympic Trials in the 1500-meter freestyle. Junior Whitney Sprague continued her record-setting career with ACC championships in the 500 and 1650 freestyles. She placed second in the NCAA Championships in the 1650 freestyle.
The Tar Heel program went to another level during DeSelm’s second year at UNC in 2008-09. Carolina sent nine women and five men to the 2009 NCAA Championships with the women finishing 20th, Carolina’s best placing since 2003. Sprague was the NCAA runner-up for the second year in a row in the 1650 freestyle while breaking the ACC record in the event. Katura Harvey placed seventh at the NCAA meet in the 1650 and broke the ACC record in the 500 freestyle. Layne Brodie was named ACC Freshman-of-the-Year, the first Tar Heel to win the award since Jessi Perruquet in 2003. She broke UNC records in three events and conference records in the 100 and 200-yard breaststrokes. On the men’s side, Tyler Harris broke the 200-yard IM and 400-yard IM school records. Kinderwater placed eighth at NCAAs in the 1650-yard freestyle where he was named first-team All-America and broke the UNC record. Kinderwater also placed fourth at World Championships Trials in the 1500-meter freestyle in 2009. Junior Chip Peterson broke the 500-yard freestyle school record. Sophomore Tommy Wyher captured a pair of ACC titles and set league records in the 100 fly and 100 back and a third school record in the 200 back.
Both Tar Heel teams had banner campaigns in 2009-10. The Tar Heel men finished second at the ACC Championships with 656.5 points, the most points UNC had scored in the meet since 2000. Carolina’s 15th-place NCAA finish was its best since 1996. Carolina captured an ACC relay title for the first time in 12 years. Three Tar Heels — Joe Kinderwater, Tommy Wyher and Tyler Harris — earned first-team All-America honors for UNC, the most in a single year since 1993. Nine UNC swimmers overall earned first-team or honorable men tion All-America accolades, the most since 1996. Eight UNC performers were named All-ACC, the most since 1997. UNC swimmers eclipsed nine school records during the school year. Senior Chip Peterson was named the ACC Scholar-Athlete-of-the-Year and an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America. He became the first Tar Heel men’s swimmer since 1965 to win the Patterson Medal as the school’s outstanding senior athlete.
The women’s squad improved their point total at ACCs for the second straight year, scoring 642.5 points, the most since 2007. For the second straight year UNC placed 20th at the NCAA Championships and the Tar Heels had relays score for the first time since 2003. Altogether, UNC swimmers established seven school records, including three relay marks. Laura Moriarty won three individual ACC championships, the most by a UNC women’s swimmer since Richelle Fox won three titles in 1998. Moriarty earned first-team All-America honors and she was one of seven Tar Heels overall who earned All-America accolades.
DeSelm was an assistant at Carolina from 1978 to 1993. In his 15 years of coaching at Carolina, the Tar Heels won 14 Atlantic Coast Conference championships including nine by the women and five by the men. The women had seven Top 10 and 14 Top 20 NCAA finishes, while the men finished in the national Top 25 on 10 occasions.
While at Florida, DeSelm helped recruit and coach men’s and women’s teams that were consistently among the best in the country. Each year from 2001 through 2006, both the men’s and women’s swimming teams finished the season in the Top 10 nationally, posting seven Top five finishes along the way. The Gators earned more than 300 All-America honors in his six years in Gainesville, including a school-record 26 citations by Carlos Jayme, who DeSelm helped mentor from 2000-2004. Jayme was the 2001 Southeastern Conference Freshman-of-the-Year and the school record holder in the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle. DeSelm also assisted in the training of Brazilian Olympian Gabriel Mangabiera, who finished fifth in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2004 Olympic Games.
DeSelm led Davidson College to four women’s and three men’s titles at the Southern States Championships and he earned five coach-of-the-year awards. Mary Shell Brosche won three consecutive Southern States swimmer-of-the-year awards under his tutelage. The Wildcats placed in the Top 10 of the ECAC meet seven times in eight years.
He coached a pair of Tar Heels to berths in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Yann deFabrique, a first-team All-America at Carolina, was the 1993 French national champion in the 400-meter freestyle. David Monasterio, a first-team All-America at UNC in the 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard butterfly, swam on the 1992 Puerto Rican Olympic Team.
Other notable UNC swimmers coached by DeSelm as an assistant from 1979-93 included Sue Walsh, Barb Harris, Polly Winde, James Hamrick, Carrie Szulc, John Davis, Gary Gauch, Melissa Douse and Sarah Perroni. Walsh and Winde were members of the 1983 United States Team in the Pan American Games. While an assistant, Walsh won 11 individual national titles and Harris and the Tar Heels women’s 200-yard medley relay team also won crowns.
DeSelm was the assistant manager for the U.S. team at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, and the 2004 FINA Short Course World Championships. He was the head manager for U.S. teams at the 1997 and 1999 Pan Pacific Championships and the 1995 Pan American Games.
DeSelm and his wife, Tracy, a physician, have two children, Grant, 18 years old, was a football and lacrosse player at Chapel Hill High School, graduating in 2014. He is now a freshman at the University of Georgia. Claire, 16 years old, is a junior at Chapel Hill High School, and a talented swimmer. in her own right.
DeSelm is a native of Knoxville, Tenn., and attended high school there and in Jacksonville, Fla., where he graduated from The Bolles School in 1974.
National and international highlights of selected individual swimmers Coach DeSelm has worked with during head coaching tenures at UNC and Davidson and an assistant at UNC and Florida.•Cari Blalock (University of North Carolina): 2013 ACC Swimmer of the Year; ACC champion and first-team All-America in 400 IM and 200 butterfly in 2013. School record holder in 200- and 400-yard IMs.