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Bohls: Texas men's swimming coach Eddie Reese shockingly announces unretirement

Texas men's swim coach Eddie Reese decided to unretire Thursday after calling it quits back in March. Reese captured his 15th national championship this year.
  • Texas swim coach Eddie Reese changed his mind, is returning to his old position.
  • Reese has been head coach at Texas for the last 43 years and finished in top 3 in 34 of them.
  • "He's the heart and soul of our athletic program," AD Chris Del Conte said of Reese.

Chris Del Conte had his work cut out for him.

The Texas athletic director faced one of his biggest challenges on the job when he was tasked with finding a competent replacement for Eddie Reese.

When Reese announced his retirement March 29 after winning the national championship in Greensboro, N.C., Del Conte had to find a capable fill-in for perhaps the greatest swim coach in the history of the sport.

So Del Conte did the next best thing.

He hired Eddie Reese back.

Somehow Reese made the short list.

Easy peasy.

So Reese went from emeritus head coach to, what, eternal head coach?

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Long-time UT swimming coach Eddie Reese times other swimmers as his his grandson, sophomore freestyle swimmer Luke Bowman  looks on at Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019

"Any day you can hire, retain or rehire somebody who's arguably the greatest coach of all time is a great day," UT President Jay Hartzell told the American-Statesman. "We are thrilled that Coach Reese has agreed to return, and we look forward to seeing him add to his incomparable legacy."

If Del Conte isn’t sleeping on silk sheets these days, he’s come close. Everything the man touches has turned to gold, whether he’s hiring Chris Beard or Mike White or Edrick Floréal or Vic Schaefer, or he’s igniting Longhorn Nation with Bevo Boulevard and the Moody Center, or he's responding to Joe Fan’s tweet requests or just endearing himself to one of the nation’s most fickle fan bases.

(We pause in this column to remind that football season is only 64 days away.)

But Texas dodged a major bullet Thursday when Reese agreed not to step down from a post he has held with distinction for 43 years. Make that a capital D in Distinction.

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Texas coach Eddie Reese flips into the water to celebrate after the Longhorns won the NCAA Division I men's swimming and diving title in 2010. Reese, who retired in March, has decided to come back to coaching.

As Del Conte told the Statesman on Thursday, “We’ve accepted Eddie’s unretirement. We are pleased that he’s back. He’s the heart and soul of our athletic program. We’re not going to get into the why or where. We’ll save that for another day, but this is awesome.”

Reese is held in such high regard by his peers at the Forty that other coaches from Augie Garrido to Shaka Smart have loved tapping into his wisdom.

Reese, quite frankly, is without peer.

So ended one of the shortest retirements in history. Mike Tyson, take notes.

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It was so brief I don’t think the school even had time to order the cake for the Happy Retirement party.

I’m not sure if the fish weren’t biting or wife Eleanor was yapping at him to clean the dishes or he just flat out missed the competition. But who cares? Reese has returned where he belongs.

As Sam Ehlinger might say, he’s … uh, never mind. Let’s let that one go.

But the guy who all but invented swimming is back in the pool. Or at least poolside, where next season he will go after his 16th national championship. Yeah, 15 just weren’t enough.

Maybe he’s still burning from those 12 failures he has on his résumé. You know. The dozen times his Longhorn swimming and diving teams finished second. What a failure.

Or the seven third-place results.

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But in all seriousness, he's run off five of the last six national championships, including four in a row from 2015 to 2018.

Before that, he had strings of four and three nattys in a row.

And 22 Olympic gold medalists as a three-time head coach.

When I texted Reese and asked if it were true, he simply said, “Yes.”

Seriously, I asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

Reese said he and Del Conte had been talking about his possible return since April.

"No pressure," Reese said. "Just logically."

Del Conte was reluctant to explain the search process or even comment on which candidates he interviewed or considered to take Reese’s place.

“You always slow play when you’re dealing with a legend,” Del Conte said.

Members of the 2010 Texas men's swimming and diving team pose for a portrait in front of the UT Tower, which is lit up with a 1 to signify the team's national championship. Texas has won 15 national championships under coach Eddie Reese's leadership.

Legend? You bet.

He’s the Darrell Royal of swimming. Equally folksy and just as hungry about winning. Royal, in fact, was the athletic director who hired Reese. But you just know Del Conte will claim him as HIS hire now.

“We are beyond excited,” Del Conte said. “He’s not going anywhere. We’ve got a phenomenal staff.”

Who’s going to deny that?

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"I love the team," Reese said. "My goal is always for me to help them go faster. If you keep getting better, you pass a lot of people."

Reese does do that.

Just consider that this man has become the only NCAA coach in his sport to win a natty in five different decades. 

And he’s got more in him. Hopefully, lots more.

Besides, he’s still young and fresh.

After all, he won’t even turn 80 until July 23.

Lot of life in that brilliant head of his. 

Unfortunately, he’s also got a couple of million corny jokes as well, but we’ll forgive him for those.

He’s still got plenty of tricks up his sleeves.

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This is a coach who constantly — and I do mean constantly — revisits his team’s training regimen, its schedule, its practice. Everything. He probably even changes the water temperature. A few years back, he made his swimmers wear blue mesh socks in the pool, adding to the drag on their bodies just to make them a millisecond faster.

And it’s all about going fast.

Even with one of the fastest retirements ever.

Welcome back, Eddie. We missed you, even if it was only a few months. Now get to work on No. 16.