If Idaho swim coach Mark Sowa was looking for an experienced diving coach to replace Kelly Gufford, he found his man.
Jim Southerland will enter his first season as the Idaho diving coach. Gufford joined the Indiana Hoosiers as an assistant diving coach for the women’s team.
Previously, Southerland was the head coach and owner of Pacific Northwest Diving for 26 years and was the Auburn District High School diving coach for 24 years in Washington.
“Jim is somebody who’s always been on our radar since we arrived here in Moscow and it’s just the nature of collegiate diving,” Sowa said. “It’s tough to lure somebody away of Jim’s caliber from the club diving perspective.”
Southerland said he avoided coaching at the college level for years to continue to develop younger divers.
Southerland has never coached at the college level, but it seems that is by choice.
“I placed probably a couple hundred kids at NCAA levels and my typical summer I’ll train 10 to 12 NCAA athletes,” Southerland said. “It’s not like it’s new for me, it’s just a different scenario.”
Southerland coached at the Junior World Championships, coached 15 junior and AAU national champions and was a USA Diving mentor coach.
“He just is a tremendous teacher,” Sowa said. “When we met face-to-face I knew right away he’s somebody that I absolutely wanted on my staff. I think he approaches the sport the right way in terms of looking at their overall development, not just their immediate success. I think he has a tremendous teaching eye. He coaches the individual within the framework of who they are as opposed to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I’m really, really excited to get him out here.”
Part of Southerland’s decision to take the coaching position at Idaho is the fact that he likes the Palouse.
“It just kind of worked within my life,” Southerland said. “I really love the area down there and I’m at a position in my life to change a little bit and I really, really love the entire area and the Palouse so it just worked out. I’m kind of more of a small town person so being in Seattle here and going to Moscow will be a change in life I’m just hoping to make.”
Idaho returns a young diving team, but Southerland still wants to do some damage in the Western Athletic Conference.
“We got a young team, but we’re really talented so I’m really excited,” Southerland said. “I think we can actually make a big mark in the Western Athletic Conference really easily.”
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CabezaGarrett