Vavic Among Surge in Hiring of Balkan, Hungarian Coaches

Vavic USC

Update: Water Polo Australia announced early Tuesday evening the appointment of Croatian Elvis Fatovic as head coach of its men’s national team.

A youthful and revamped version of the US Senior National Team with its new leader Jovan Vavic turned away Argentina in an exhibition match on Saturday in Orange County, 14-8. The North Americans have been training with Argentina prior to their departure for Calgary to take part in the UANA Qualification Tournament, the precursor to this summer’s FINA World Championships in Barcelona.

The practice match was the international debut for the Montenegro-native Vavic, who was named interim head coach last October after unprecedented success at the US collegiate level. The change of American coaching staff was one of 10 similar announcements among senior international programs since the end of the 2012 London Olympics, and highlights the prominence of Balkan and Hungarian coaches at that level.

Germany’s men’s team replaced the legendary Hagen Stamm with Nebojsa Novoselac from Serbia, while New Zealand handed its men’s and women’s programs to Hungarians Jozsef Sike and Attila Biro. Canada also made a change last year, promoting the Serb Aleksandar Beslin to head coach under program director and fellow Serbian Dragan Jovanovic. And while no replacement has yet been announced for Australian John Fox, who was not retained after the Sharks’ 7th place finish in London, many believe the position could go to a Balkan-based coach; Australia hosts significant Serbian and Croatian diasporas.

The men’s teams of Serbia, Croatia, and Hungary themselves have selected new home-grown coaches in Dejan Savic, Ivica Tucak, and Tibor Benedek. Romania and Greece bucked the trend by replacing Hungarian and Serbian head coaches with native talents Vlad Hagiu and Sakis Kechagias. Vavic and his US Team must place at least second out of four teams at the UANA tournament to qualify for the FINA Cup. They will meet Team Canada on January 30 to begin the competition.

The date of USA’s meeting with Team Canada was previously incorrect and has since been updated.