Bowman coming back - so is Phelps

The Baltimore Sun

Michael Phelps has always said he'd be willing to follow his coach, Bob Bowman, just about anywhere. After the Beijing Olympics, it looks as if Phelps will be following him right back to Baltimore.

Bowman -- Phelps' personal coach since he was 11 years old -- resigned yesterday as coach at the University of Michigan to take over as CEO of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, and said that Phelps will be coming with him to live and train, once again, in Charm City.

The pair has been in Ann Arbor since 2004, with Bowman serving as Wolverines coach as well as guiding Club Wolverine, the club Phelps swims for. The move won't take place until after the Summer Games in August, although Phelps, 22, has already purchased a place to live in Baltimore.

"Michael and I discussed it extensively," Bowman said. "His focus right now is really on the Olympics, and after that he's got a lot of stuff planned. But he loves Baltimore, too. It's always been his home."

Bowman, 43, will take over the position currently held by Murray Stephens, 62, who has built the program over his 38 years as chief executive of NBAC. Stephens hired Bowman in 1996 when Bowman was about to quit coaching and go back to school.

"I was actually going to go take a position as a graduate assistant at Auburn and make like $10,000 a year when Murray called me up and offered a job," Bowman said. "I did it for a few years, and then this kid named Michael ended up in my group."

Also in 1996, Stephens purchased the Meadowbrook Aquatic Center in Baltimore, the primary home of the aquatic club. He raised and borrowed enough money to turn it into one of the best private facilities on the East Coast. It currently has more than 200 swimmers of all age groups.

Since its inception in 1967, NBAC has developed 10 Olympic athletes who have won a total of 11 gold, two silver and three bronze medals. In Athens, Phelps won six gold medals and two bronze.

Stephens said he'll stay on at NBAC and focus on a number of jobs, including financial management, facility improvement and development.

"Let's be blunt about it: I still love coaching, and I still coach almost every day," he said. "But I saw this as an opportunity for us to do now rather than wait three years or four years. ... For me, it's about putting the program on track for the next 20 years."

Stephens said he and Bowman have been discussing the move for several months, but decided to announce it now to give Michigan a chance to name a new coach before recruiting season heated up. Bowman guided Michigan to the 2008 Big Ten title and recently finished sixth at the NCAA championships.

"It was extremely hard," Bowman said of breaking the news to his team. "They're a fantastic group."

Bowman said he's making the move, in part, because he wanted more control over his own destiny and wants to be more involved with the business aspect of swimming. He also owns a farm in the Baltimore area and several race horses, and has dreams of training them full time.

Bowman said the status of Paul Yetter -- NBAC's senior elite coach who guides the career of Katie Hoff, a five-time world champion -- won't change.

Having Hoff and Phelps, perhaps the two best swimmers in the world right now, will be quite the recruiting tool.

"Murray views this as kind of the next step in the evolution of NBAC," Bowman said. "As always, we're going to keep our focus on being the No. 1 program in the country, if not the world."

Said Stephens: "I'm very excited, and I take it as kind of a personal compliment that Bob and Mike want to come back. Not that they really ever left emotionally."

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