USC's Vavic named interim men's coach


Jovan Vavic dominates college water polo as a coach, but he dreams about the Olympics.

“My dream is to coach the U.S. national team to an Olympic gold medal,” he said.

The USC coach might have taken a step in that direction Tuesday as he was named the interim coach for the U.S. national men’s water polo team.

Vavic, a 10-time NCAA championship coach, will select and train the U.S. squad for the Union Americana de Natacion World Championship Qualification Tournament in Calgary, Alberta, Jan. 28 through Feb. 2.

The team will train at USC and the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, starting Dec. 10, Vavic said.

The Americans need to qualify for next year’s FINA World Championships in Barcelona, July 19 through Aug. 4, because of their disappointing eighth-place finish at the London Games.

“I really love this opportunity,” Vavic, 51, said. “I love like this challenge. I am really, really looking forward to working with some of our best athletes. …I know them (the national team players) really well.

“You know how many game plans I have made against Tony (Azevedo) and how to stop him? And (Tim) Hutten. And how to score on Merrill (Moses).”

Vavic, 51, remains the coach of the USC men’s and women’s water polo teams.

He said he would be interested in the permanent U.S. coaching position if he can continue to coach at USC.

“If everything can be worked out (in a way) that I can keep my USC position, I would be interested,” Vavic said in a phone interview. “This is something to be discussed after the tournament. … It really needs to be a give-and-take situation, where USA Water Polo is willing to work with me as well as USC.”

Vavic has selected UC Irvine men’s coach Marc Hunt and USC assistant Marko Pintaric as his assistant coaches.

USA Water Polo said Tuesday that it applied the interim title because it is in the process of hiring a chief administration and operations officer – a newly created post – to oversee the coaching staff.

Vavic, a native of Yugoslavia, said he applied to be the U.S. men’s national team coach in the early 1990s but didn’t get the job.

“Nobody, really, at the time was considering me because I was so new and so young,” he said.

Vavic has since become a 10-time national coach of the year at USC. He has guided the men’s team to seven NCAA titles, including the past four, and the women to three NCAA crowns.

He replaces Terry Schroeder, who guided the U.S. men in London and to a breakthrough, silver medal at the 2008 Olympics. Schroeder is set to return as Pepperdine’s men’s coach in 2013.

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