Spiniello brings new mentality to RU deck
Phil Spiniello has only been Rutgers head swimming and diving coach for two months, but the feeling is nothing new to him.
The 30-year-old coach spent the past four years as an assistant at Princeton after three years on the staff at Arizona State, but got his first head coaching position with the Scarlet Knights.
"I really don't see a big difference, because when I was an assistant, I approached every day as if I was a head coach and the program was mine," Spiniello said. "I tried to come in with the mentality that I was preparing myself to be a head coach, so I've worked towards this."
In each of Spiniello's four seasons at Princeton, the Tigers finished in the top 25 at the NCAA Championships. With Rutgers, the first target is dethroning Notre Dame — the gold standard of women's swimming and diving in the Big East.
The Irish won 14 consecutive conference titles, placing a target square on their back.
"That would be the ultimate goal [to displace Notre Dame], absolutely," Spiniello said. "The focus of our team is going to be the Big East Championship meet, placing as high as we can and putting as many women into the NCAA Championship meet as possible."
With Spiniello at the helm as the seventh head coach in Rutgers' program's 95-year history, the aim remains to be at peak performance come the end of the season, when Rutgers hopes for representatives in the Big East, NCAA and Zone Diving Championships.
But before that, and in experiencing success at the title events, Spiniello hopes to change the culture of the Rutgers program. The Knights finished in the top five in the Big East Championships each of the past 11 seasons, but could not establish itself as a regular challenger to Notre Dame.
"The first step is to create a culture of winning, a culture of teamwork," Spiniello said. "Being a part of a team, where everyone is working towards a common goal."
Although Spiniello has only been able to meet a few of the members of his team, which includes representatives from 10 states and Canada, he is more than familiar with New Jersey swimming.
Spiniello served as the recruiting coordinator at Princeton.
As he aims to build the Rutgers program, his recruiting goal — to keep the best New Jersey swimmers in New Jersey — remains the same, just a few miles North on Route 1, instead.
"In my four years with Princeton and coaching a club team in Princeton as well, I feel like I know New Jersey swimming and I would love to start recruiting state kids," Spiniello said. "Get New Jersey talent to stay in New Jersey."
Spiniello announced Lisa Pursley would join his staff as an assistant coach. Pursley was a three-time All-American at Arizona and won the Pac-10 Championship in 2006. Pursley received her master's in education from Arizona State while also working as a Masters swimming coach at the Phoenix Swim Club.