Jan. 13, 2005
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Former UCLA Head Coach Guy Baker has been named the new U.S. Men's Water Polo Head Coach, USA Water Polo announced Tuesday. Baker, who served at UCLA from 1991-2000 and led UCLA to seven national titles, will fill the void left by Ratko Rudic, who resigned the post on December 9 to accept the head coaching job in his native Croatia.
Baker, known for his passionate coaching style and his meticulous dedication to planning and preparation, has been one of the most successful coaches in international water polo since he began with the U.S. in 1998.
In 2001, Baker and Rudic were selected as USWP's first-ever, full-time National Team Head Coaches. Both men were also named as National Teams Director, a title that gave each coach the responsibility of developing their programs at all levels and in all parts of the country.
Last summer, Baker became the first women's Olympic coach to guide his teams to medals at both Olympics, winning a silver in 2000 and a bronze in 2004. He led the U.S. into the Athens Games having won gold at seven of eight international tournaments, including the top spot at the first-ever FINA World League Super Final for women in Long Beach (Calif.) in June. In 2003, the U.S. women's team became only the second non-European squad to win a World Championship, the only other being Australia in 1986. The U.S. followed its World Championship run by dominating its way to a gold at the Pan American Games. In 2002, the U.S. played its way to a silver medal at the FINA World Cup.
It didn't take Baker long to engineer the women's turnaround after coming on in 1998. After coaching the team to its Olympic qualification on its last chance, Baker's team made it to the gold medal game of the Sydney Olympics - a game attended by a record 17,500 fans - only to lose out to host Australia on a last-second goal. From there, Baker's teams medaled in all but one major championship, finishing in fourth place at the 2001 FINA World Championships. Overall, the U.S. women only failed to play for a medal in one international tournament since 1999.
Baker is also no stranger to coaching men. As the Head Coach at UCLA, Baker guided his men's teams to NCAA titles in 1995, 1996, 1999 and 2000. He also coached the Bruin women to three straight titles from 1996-98. He became the first coach to lead a men's and a women's collegiate team to titles in the same academic year, a feat he accomplished twice: 1995-96 and 1996-97.
Baker will be joined by his assistant coach of the last four years, Kyle Kopp (San Bernardino, CA/Long Beach State) and former men's assistant coach Dan Leyson (Los Angeles, CA/USC).
Baker's selection is scheduled to be ratified by USWP's Men's International Olympic Committee at the upcoming Annual Meeting (Jan. 13-17) in Houston (Tex.).
Three of Baker's athletes were named National Player of the Year twice each - Coralie Simmons, Sean Kern, and Matt Swanson. In all, Bruin athletes were named All-America 52 times - 34 men, 18 women - and eight competed in the Olympics since 1992.