Adam Krikorian, the U.S. women's water polo coach, says he can't recall what exactly happened in those final seconds of anticipation. A coach's short-term memory, he says. But what he does remember from that August evening wasn't so much a sight or a sound but the weight.
Krikorian coached the U.S. women's team to its first gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. But as a coach, he does not receive a medal. Only players do.
Instead, he got 13, one by one by one.
"The coolest memory for me was at the end of the ceremony when all the athletes put the medals around my neck," Krikorian said of the more than 11 pounds of gold-plated accomplishment. "It was a gesture that was more meaningful than anything I've experienced during my coaching career."
He's the other Coach K, the water polo one according to his Twitter account. But last month, the U.S. Olympic Committee selected Krikorian as national coach of the year over the other Coach K, Duke men's basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"Adam was the one who got us to that point and helped us become one team," said Maggie Steffens, the most valuable player of the Olympic tournament. "And the way to show our gratitude to the world was to show that he was a gold medalist as well."
But while the basketball Coach K returned to endorsements, fame and a multimillion-dollar contract, Krikorian returned to the Little League games he missed and family dinners he used to eat cold.
But things could have turned out quite differently for Krikorian, who lives in Manhattan Beach. Because they grew up fans of the San Francisco Giants, his older brothers, Blake and Jason, created Slingbox, a television streaming device that allows people to watch the home TV from anywhere over the Internet. Slingbox sold for $380 million.
Still, the coach is seen as the lucky one in the competitive family.
"There's definitely those thoughts that say 'I could be just hanging out right now if I got in with them.' But I don't have the same love that they do," Krikorian said. "Actually, they always tell me they wish they were able to do what I am doing."
Blake, a former UCLA water polo player, said he would have loved to have Adam on the Slingbox team, but never wanted to force him to leave his passion for coaching.
"Starting a company and selling a company has tons of ups and downs but there is nothing like the adrenaline of sport," Blake said. "He doesn't know how good he's got it. I've been living vicariously through him this whole time."
For the most part, Krikorian, 38, chooses to ignore past success. He says it hurts to look backward in the pursuit of moving forward. He left that to USA Water Polo, who took note of his past — 14 national championships in nine years as coach of the UCLA men's and women's progams.
Such success has taught Krikorian about water polo's tradition of celebrating a championship, one that involves tossing everyone in the pool. Since taking over as the national team coach in 2009, Krikorian has gone for a dip in full attire at a world cup, world championship, Pan American Games and most recently in London.
"It's a bunch of new belts and new shoes you have to buy," Krikorian said, jokingly. "It never gets old though. But now we're looking toward the world championships in Barcelona."
Of the 15 national championship rings — he won one as a player at UCLA — Krikorian has "misplaced" a few. Why not blame it on short-term memory? It has gotten him this far.
"It's the journey and the bonds you've forged that are more powerful in that moment than a medal, ring or award will ever be," he said.
Krikorian doesn't have to remember his success. After all, others will do plenty of that for him.
"He likes to talk about how heavy those medals were, but I think it was just a symbol of how much weight he carries as a coach," Steffens said.
That's one memory he might allow to stick around.
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