Gary Kinkead retires after 21 seasons
Head Swimming and Diving Coach Gary Kinkead has led the Greyhounds to success in and out of the pool for 21 years. Under his leadership, the team has racked up countless All-American finishes, placed at nationals most years and won accolades for academic performance both as individuals and as a team.
Kinkead has been coaching UIndy’s swimmers and divers since 1994. He has been coaching the sport since he finished his own swimming career at the University of Michigan in 1970. He has coached from the club level right up to the Olympic level, with a gig in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
To avoid boredom and to stay involved with the sport he loves, Kinkead will work in Canada with the American College Connection recruiting company to help prospective student athletes find the right school to suit their needs. Kinkead said he is excited to start the next chapter of his life.
“Watching other people retire—and this might sound a little macabre—I have always felt like once you retire it is the beginning of death…,” Kinkead said. “There are certain directions I want to pursue, and I felt like this was a great opportunity to do that.”
Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sue Willey described Kinkead as a swimmer and diver’s coach who has focused on more than the times or scores. She said Kinkead gets the NCAA Division II and UIndy motto of academics first.
“Priority number one is academics, priority number two is to reflect well on the program … priority number three is to be a successful swimmer or diver,” Willey said.
Kinkead said that he will pull aside any swimmer or diver who has below a “C” and ask what is going on with the grade and the class. He said that he does this because academics are ultimately what will get a student athlete through life post-graduation.
“We sell them on the fact that they probably won’t be a professional swimmer,” Willey said. “Priority number one is your education, and the athletic achievements are icing on the cake.”
Willey said Kinkead’s commitment to a student athlete’s full UIndy experience sets him apart from other coaches. She said that the athletic department tries to instill the value of student athlete first, which Kinkead exudes, but not all coaches get it. Kinkead, she said, has the mark of a good Greyhound coach.
“Being a good coach at UIndy means that you improve the lives of student athletes…,” Willey said. “Some coaches only care about the wins, but I think he cared about the total swimmer or diver.”
Kinkead said that choosing to whom to give a scholarship was one of the hardest tasks as a coach. However, he said that it was gratifying to see a swimmer or diver thrive at UIndy.
In another aspect of recruiting, Willey said Kinkead excelled at striking a good balance of international and American students.
Senior Daniel Chan, a four-time All-American swimmer from Brazil, said that Kinkead helped him find a place at UIndy where he could have a balance between getting the education he needed and pursuing swimming. In addition to that, Chan said that the cultural differences of team members come together to create a richer experience for him and his teammates.
“We are exposed to all kinds of different cultures [through the team], and that enriches our lives,” Chan said.
One of the most enjoyable parts of being a coach at UIndy for Kinkead was seeing student athletes grow from mistake-prone kids to mature adults during their time at UIndy.
“They come in as boys and girls in high school, and they leave as men and women out of college,” Kinkead said. “They may just be around for three or four years, but it’s fun to watch them mature 20 years.”
One of Kinkead’s fondest memories from his time as UIndy’s head coach came in 2011 at the NCAA Championships in San Antonio, Texas. He recalls taking several women swimmers to nationals, where they placed second in the 800 freestyle relay but were disqualified due to an accidental false start.
Even though they were disqualified, he said that their effort stands out among all the women or men he has coached, especially because one of the women swam faster than she previously had, even though she was sick. He recalled how amazing it was to see their performances build on each other into almost a second place finish and the greatest effort he has seen as a coach.
Beyond his swimmer’s and diver’s accolades, Willey said that Kinkead’s leadership was instrumental in bringing swimming and diving to the Great Lakes Valley Conference and that he helped secure the partnership of UIndy with Indiana Sports Corp to host the NCAA Division II Championships at IUPUI’s IU Natatorium.
Willey said that the athletic department cannot truly replace Kinkead because his record as a coach was remarkable. She also said that they do have a shortlist for a new coach, but they are still in the process of finding the right person to continue Kinkead’s legacy.
Kinkead said he hopes that the next Greyhound swimming and diving coach will grow the program even more.
“I want my legacy of 21 years to go forward,” Kinkead said. “I want to watch this program grow; I want to watch this program get better. I want to be proud of what I’ve established, and I want to see the academics continue in the same vein.