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In memoriam: Peter Daland, 93

Longtime USC swim coach led Trojans to nine NCAA team titles and helmed the U.S. men, who captured nine gold medals in the 1972 Olympics.

Peter Daland with swimmers
Peter Daland was a six-time National Coach of the Year. (Photo/courtesy of USC Athletics)

Legendary USC men’s swimming head coach Peter Daland, who led the Trojans to nine NCAA team championships during his 35-year tenure, died on Oct. 20 of Alzheimer’s disease in Thousand Oaks. He was 93.

Under Daland from 1958 through 1992, USC also placed second at the NCAA meet 11 times, won 17 league crowns and posted a 318-31-1 dual meet record. A six-time National Coach of the Year, his swimmers captured 93 NCAA and 155 Pac-10 individual and relay titles. USC went undefeated in dual meets in 20 of his seasons. His 1977 team is regarded as the finest collegiate swim team ever.

Among the world-class swimmers he coached were John Naber, winner of four Olympic gold medals and 10 NCAA titles; American record holders Dave Wharton and Mike O’Brien; and Olympic stars Roy Saari, Murray Rose, Jeff Float, Joe and Mike Bottom and Bruce and Steve Furniss.

One of the most successful and respected collegiate and international swim coaches in history, Daland spent more than 45 years coaching at the club and college levels. He coached the U.S. men in the 1972 Olympics as they won nine gold medals (including seven by Mark Spitz) and the U.S. women in the 1964 Olympics, who captured six golds. He guided American teams to impressive victories against East Germany and the USSR in 1971 and at the World University Games in 1973.

Daland also won 17 national AAU titles (15 men’s at USC and two women’s at the Los Angeles Athletic Club). USC finished first or second in the AAU meet a phenomenal 20 times in Daland’s 35 years.

Warm words

“The world of swimming has lost one of its most progressive minds,” said current USC swimming and diving head coach Dave Salo. “Personally, I have lost a great and close personal friend. Peter was instrumental in teaching me the championship process. He was about relationships and driving the process to championship performance through team work.”

Said Naber: “The sport lost a great man, and I lost a dear friend. I shall always be grateful to Coach Daland for his ability to push me outside my comfort zone. He was a rarity in college coaching because he was equally concerned with his team’s academic and social growth as he was with his swimmers’ athletic accomplishments.

He wanted his swimmers to be self-reliant, responsible and as good as they could possibly be in all aspects of life.

John Naber

“He knew every swimmer’s name, academic major and the names of family members and girlfriends. Although many of his swimmers achieved international acclaim, he never altered his style to accommodate any one individual.”

“When Coach Daland was on deck, the pool at USC held no stars, only squad members. He made it a point to address each swimmer by name at least once per workout. He wanted his swimmers to be self-reliant, responsible and as good as they could possibly be in all aspects of life,” Naber continued.

“He challenged his teams to live up to the standards set by prior teams. He brought a wealth of knowledge and understanding on how to get the most out of his teams, and his swimmers repaid him with great admiration, loyalty and respect.”

Bruce Furniss, one of four Furniss brothers to swim at USC for Daland, said: “Peter Daland was a giant. He was to swimming what John Wooden was to basketball. He cared deeply about you as a swimmer and as a person, and he did it in both a loving way and a strong parental way.

“He brought his East Coast pedigree and prestige to USC, and he proved to be the bridge between the sport’s pioneer coaches and today’s modern-era coaches. I am so glad I came to USC and swam for him. But maybe the best times we had were these past 10 or 15 years when we would get together, he would tell me about his life and we would laugh nostalgically about the good old days.”

Hall of Fame credentials

Daland was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the American Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the USC Athletic Hall of Fame. The pool of USC’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center bears his name.

Originally from New York City, Daland was a 1948 graduate of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. His first coaching job was at Rose Valley (Penn.), where he took the club swim team to eight consecutive Suburban League titles (1947-55). He founded and was the first head coach of the Suburban Swimming Club in Philadelphia (1950-55) and served as an assistant swim coach at Yale University from 1950-54.

A private funeral service will be held for Daland’s immediate family. A public celebration of Daland’s life will be held on Nov. 21 at 10:30 a.m. at the Aquatics Center. To reserve a seat, go to (passcode: daland).

In lieu of flowers, Daland’s family requests that donations be made to the Peter Daland Endowed Head Swimming Coach’s Chair to endow the men’s swimming head coach’s position (c/o Ron Orr, USC Athletic Department, Heritage Hall, Los Angeles, Calif. 90089-0602).

Daland is survived by Ingrid, his wife of nearly 50 years; children George, Roger, Peter Jr., Bonnie and Leslie); and eight grandchildren.

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In memoriam: Peter Daland, 93

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