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Former Arizona swimming coach Frank Busch ‘flattered’ by Hall of Fame honor

by ZwemZa on May 18th, 2018

Frank Busch (Arizona Daily Star)

There are many ways to measure success in coaching: wins, championship, Olympics medals, accolades, awards — and simply producing good citizens.

Frank Busch did it all.

Friday night, the former Arizona Wildcats coach will add one more award to his list. The International Swimming Hall of Fame is giving Busch the Paragon Award for his outstanding contributions to competitive swimming. Busch is one of two Wildcats who will be honored at the weekend-long event: Amanda Beard will be inducted into the hall for her accomplishments in the pool.

Busch spent 22 years at the UA, winning 2008 NCAA Championships in both men’s and women’s swimming and finishing in the Top 5 a combined 25 times. He developed 48 NCAA individual national champions and 31 NCAA relay champions.

In 2011, Busch left the UA to become the USA Swimming’s national team director. His teams collected 64 Olympic medals, 32 of them gold. Busch retired last fall, and returned home to Tucson:

The Star talked to Busch this week to learn what this award means to him, what he is doing in retirement, and his thoughts on the UA swimming program under his son, Augie.

What is the Paragon Award and what does it mean to you to receive it?

A: “I am flattered and a very very fortunate individual to have an amazing life through the sport of swimming. Sometimes I wonder how it all worked this way. Besides being blessed, it has been an amazing ride.

“I always joke that if you hang around long enough, they want to give you something. It’s about what I contributed to the sport. Actually, I am more excited for Amanda and Anthony Ervin (who is receiving the Buck Dawson Authors Award). I’ve known Anthony well for years. It will be a great weekend.

“I haven’t seen Amanda since the (Wildcats) reunion last fall. It was the largest in UA history for any sport; 250 swimmers came back, pretty impressive. All that hard work and suffering swimmers put in; they love to commiserate. It didn’t surprise me that so many came.”

Why was last September the right time to step down from your position as National Team Director of USA Swimming?

A: “It was time for someone else to take over. I was so blessed to lead the United States in the Olympics and the World Championships. I was ready to not be in charge any more.”

What have you being doing since you retired?

A: “I’ve been working with (auto dealer) Jim Click’s Foundation in Tucson. Jim was one of the first people I met in Tucson who was not affiliated with the UA. We became great friends. We talked and he asked me if I was going to go through another Olympic cycle. He said if I came back to Tucson, he wanted to work with me. Jim has given so much — not only money, but to the community. There is no way I could turn that down. His mentality is the more cars I sell, the more I can give away.”

What does it mean to you that your son, Augie, is now sitting in your chair as head coach at UA?

A: “I couldn’t be more proud or happy for him. I know the joy he has every day when he steps onto the pool deck. I am just so happy for him.

“Augie was a very good swimmer, but he had a bad shoulder and had to give up the sport. But he loved swimming. When he was in college he came to me and told me he really wanted to coach. So, I told him the steps he had to take – coaching club in the summer, then high school, then I would take him on as a volunteer, etc. He got a college job at Arkansas and when I had an opening, I hired him. He was here for eight years and blossomed into a great coach. Then he went on to Houston and UVa; it was always in the back of his mind to coach at UA. He will never leave. He loves this program.

“I couldn’t be more proud.”

How do you think his first season went?

A: “The program has improved so much. It’s a matter of time before UA becomes relevant in the sport — meaning chasing national titles.

“I think it’s hard to be a coach in any sport at the D-I level. No on puts more pressure on than you do. You want the kids to grow, learn, be good citizens and yes, be good athletes. It takes effort and doesn’t happen overnight. Every day is a challenge for everyone. You have to have the enthusiasm, the commitment, and the sticktuitiveness. They (UA program) will have the momentum going into next year. They’ve got the ball rolling now.”

PJ Brown Special to the Arizona Daily Star

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