Ferd Lewis: University of Hawaii rewarded for diving in with 2-for-1 coaching deal

Ferd Lewis, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
·3 min read

Feb. 23—At the time the idea seemed preposterous merely at the asking.

In 2000 then-University of Hawaii swim coach Sam Freas offered former Texas coach Mike Brown the job as the diving coach for the men's and women's teams at UH only to receive a challenging counteroffer.

Brown said he would gladly take the job under one condition : Would the school hire his wife, Anita Rossing, to also coach the divers ? Two diving coaches was a rarity and a husband-wide team unheard of. But UH eventually agreed to the proposal, as long as the pair split one salary.

It turned out to be one of UH's biggest bargains in terms of producing championships. So much so that, in time, the administration agreed to come up with the means to pay separate salaries.

The wisdom of those decisions was underlined for the umpteenth time this past weekend as the UH women's swimming and diving team won its fifth consecutive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship at San Luis Obispo, Calif., and the men took second place to Brigham Young.

Both finishes were aided by a sweep of the men's and women's diving competition. Daphne Wils won the women's 1-and 3-meter events while Max Burman took the men's 3-meter and Mason Williams captured the 1-meter.

"They (the divers ) were both able to contribute tremendously, " said Elliot Ptasnik, the aquatic program's head coach.

History suggests that had the MPSF not been forced to cancel the platform diving competition due to facility restrictions surrounding COVID-19, UH likely would have swept those events as well.

In the 20-season tenure of Brown and Rossing across four conference memberships, UH divers have won 51 women's individual conference titles—including 13 consecutive 3-meter championships and nine in the 1-meter event—and the men have taken 34.

Moreover UH athletes have won two NCAA individual diving titles and posted two runner-up finishes.

UH swim coaches have come and gone with Brown and Rossing serving alongside six head coaches, but the diving teams' championship consistency has not wavered. It has gotten to the point that divers seem to recruit UH as much as the program seeks them out. UH recently signed a diver from Finland who was influenced by word of mouth tributes from competitors in Norway and Sweden.

"Diving in Hawaii is a very desirable place to be and we have great coaching, " Ptasnik said. "Coach Mike and Coach Anita have done a great job."

In their three-quarter century of combined coaching experience, Brown and Rossing have built a vast international network of contacts and an impressive resume. Brown was an All-American at Dartmouth and a U.S. National Team member. Rossing was on two NCAA championship squads at Texas, where Brown coached, and she also competed in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles and Seoul.

At UH they divide up the chores and share the actual on-the-deck coaching. "The teamwork makes it work, " Rossing said. "I think the kids see the benefit of having not just one person looking at it and commenting." They both work with each team and the divers are free to approach whichever coach they feel more comfortable.

As a wife-husband team, Mike said, "We've been working at it for 21 years, so we're almost getting there."------Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis @staradvertiser.com or 529-4820.------