USC hires Quincy Watts as track and field coach

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The USC women's track and field team accepts the team trophy after winning the NCAA championship Saturday in Eugene, Ore.
The USC women's track and field team accepts the team trophy after winning the NCAA championship in Eugene, Ore. on Saturday. (Associated Press)

After winning a NCAA women’s title, then losing its coach just one day later, USC has moved swiftly in replacing one of the nation’s top track and field coaches with a Trojan track legend.

Quincy Watts, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and current Trojans top assistant, has been named USC’s director of track and field and cross country, the university announced on Thursday.

Watts replaces Caryl Smith Gilbert, the NCAA women’s track and field coach of the year, who led USC’s women’s team to the second NCAA title of her tenure last weekend and the men to a fifth-place finish before announcing she was taking the same job at Georgia.

Watts, 50, was a natural successor. A former Woodland Hills Taft High and USC track star, Watts was the 1992 NCAA 400-meter champion with the Trojans. This season, as USC track and field had one of its finest seasons in program history, Watts was named national outdoor women’s assistant coach of the year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Assn.

“Naming Quincy Watts, a Trojan Hall of Famer and Olympic legend, as our new director of track and field and cross country is the best and right decision for us,” USC athletic director Mike Bohn said in a statement. “His impact on both our men’s and women’s program over the past eight years has been significant.”

Watts certainly learned from one of the best. Smith Gilbert was widely considered one of the top track and field coaches in the nation, winning two national championships over eight seasons and establishing USC as a national track and field power and haven for Olympic hopefuls.

In a statement announcing her departure Bohn said that Smith Gilbert had turned USC into “a national force”.

But why she departed USC for Georgia so quickly after adding another national championship to her mantle remains unclear. In addition to its latest national title, USC just recently opened a new $16-million track and field facility on campus.

Smith Gilbert told reporters in Georgia she wanted to “go into a more intense conference for track and field and to be competitive throughout the South.”

“I think USC is a great place, and I love USC,” Smith Gilbert said, “but ... I know my recruiting is kind of aimed at Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia so, spent more time in my suitcase than I did at home, so that was the thing for me to do as far as logistics was concerned.”

Elevating Watts to director of track and field should help smooth over that transition at USC, as well. Bohn said he was impressed by “the overwhelming support Quincy has from our current team”, while Watts called his hiring “the beginning of a moment I have dreamed about for years.”

“The first person I thought about today was my father,” Watts said. “I looked at a lot of schools when I was being recruited in high school, but when I chose USC, my father jumped up and down. He told me that USC was always his favorite school, but he wanted the decision to be mine.”

Watts spent two seasons as an assistant coach at Cal State Northridge before joining Smith Gilbert’s staff in 2014. Four years later, he helped the Women of Troy to a national title.

Now, he’ll be tasked with defending another national championship in his first year on the job.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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