George Haines, a renowned coach who helped develop some of the greatest swimmers of recent decades, including the Olympic champions Mark Spitz and Don Schollander, died on Monday in Carmichael, California. He was 82.
His death was announced by the Santa Clara Swim Club, which he founded. The club said he had a severe stroke four years ago.
When he retired in 1988, Haines had coached 53 Olympians, who won a total of 44 gold, 14 silver and 10 bronze medals, the Santa Clara Swim Club said.
Haines was head coach of the US Olympic team three times (1960 women, 1968 men and 1980 combined) and an assistant for the 1964, 1972 and 1976 Games.
He began coaching many of his Olympians in California at Santa Clara High School and the Santa Clara Swim Club. Besides Spitz and Schollander, he coached, among others, the Olympic gold medalists Chris von Saltza, Donna de Varona, Claudia Kolb, Steve Clark, Lynn Burke, John Hencken, Dick Roth and Pablo Morales. They, and Haines, have all been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
In 2000, Swimming World and Junior Swimmer magazine named Haines the sport's outstanding coach of the 20th century.
To many, he seemed a dour disciplinarian with a biting sense of humor. When Spitz, who won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics, broke three world records in one night in the Santa Clara pool, Haines was asked if the main reason was a fast pool.
"Yes," he said. "The water flows downhill in both directions."
His athletes, who swam 10,000m to 15,000m in practice daily, were intensely loyal.
Schollander, who won four Olympic gold medals in Tokyo in 1964 and one in Mexico City in 1968, said of Haines: "He suggests. He doesn't prescribe. He knows as much about training and mechanics as anyone, but he is truly great because he knows each swimmer."
He added, "Whenever he says I can do a job, I know I can."
Haines made fun of his reputation for toughness. At a swimming clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, he upbraided the visiting coaches for talking with such reverence about Bear Bryant, the University of Alabama's legendary football coach.
Haines wrote on a blackboard, "Bear Bryant is not God."
When the snickers died down, he wrote, "I am."
George Frederick Haines was born March 9, 1924, in Huntington, Indiana. He swam on the perennial powerhouse teams of the Huntington YMCA, coached by Glenn Hummer.
His club swimmers won 43 national team championships and broke more than 200 world records. Typically, he coached more than 300 school and club swimmers at a time.