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The GW Hatchet

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Swimming head coach resigns from position after championship season, pool turmoil

Hatchet File Photo
Swim Coach Brian Thomas coaching players in 2018.

Men’s and women’s swimming and diving Head Coach Brian Thomas resigned from his position at GW, Athletics Director Tanya Vogel announced Wednesday.

In his six years leading the program, Thomas coached the men’s team to win five Atlantic 10 Championships and the women’s team to four, including three consecutive wins for both teams from 2022 to 2024. Since his hire in 2018, Thomas has built GW’s winningest program and one of the most successful mid-major swimming teams. 

“I’m grateful to Tanya, Andrew and the rest of our administration for entrusting me in leading the program and extremely proud of our student-athletes for the way they represented GW during my time in Foggy Bottom,” Thomas said in a statement, referring to Vogel and Associate Athletics Director Andrew Lundt. “I’ve been surrounded by excellent coaches and support staff at GW and I’m grateful for their commitment to our student-athletes.”

Thomas picked up his seventh and eighth A-10 Coach of the Year honors this season for his leadership of the men’s and women’s programs. It was his third-consecutive year winning the coaching award for both teams. 

“I want to thank Brian for his commitment to excellence in the pool,” Vogel said in the statement. “He has recruited incredible people who value GW and are extremely dedicated to being their best in multiple areas of their life.”

At this year’s A-10 Championship, the teams broke 17 conference records and 27 program records. GW became the first A-10 program to win all 10 relay events, breaking conference records in seven of the 10 events. Sophomore Ava Topolewski, junior Ava Deangelis and men’s team senior Djurdje Matic all qualified for the NCAA Championships in March, where Matic placed 14th in the 100-yard butterfly, earning him All-American status. Both the men’s and women’s teams ranked within the top 35 teams in the country for the 2023-24 season.

Athletics officials said in their statement that they have begun a “national search” for the next head coach.

When entering his first season, Thomas said he was focused on building GW’s program to a national level and fostering a stronger team culture. He said he would create a year-round program for the team, having freshmen stay over the summer to build stronger connections.

Thomas said he wanted his coaching staff to focus on forming a “partnership” with swimmers to form a deeper understanding of how to succeed in the pool and instituted intense workout programs to improve the team’s physical fitness. 

The announcement of his departure comes just a few weeks after officials abandoned plans to demolish the Smith Center pool to build practice facilities for the basketball teams, citing unforeseen additional work and costs. The team will continue to practice and host meets in the Smith Center, where the 25-meter pool is half of an Olympic-length swimming pool.

Vogel said that the Smith Center pool is “insufficient” for the swimming and diving teams in a March Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting.

When the demolition plans were still in motion, six swimmers told The Hatchet they were disappointed with how the athletic department disregarded and ignored their needs. They said officials had not organized practice facilities and schedules quickly enough, with tentative schedules not providing enough time for classes and practice facilities in Virginia requiring too much commute time.

Swimmers said last month there were “double-digit” entrances into the transfer portal this offseason, compared to zero in years prior. Swimmers entering their senior year said they can’t recall a swimmer transferring away during their time at GW.

Even after the reversal of the planned demolition of the Smith Center pool, many swimmers chose to remain in the portal, due to a risk of a scholarship reduction if they returned.  

Swim blogging site SwimSwam reported that following Thomas’ departure, Topolewski and Deangelis entered the transfer portal. SwimSwam reported Thursday that Topolewski has decided to withdraw from the portal and remain at GW.    

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