Not an hour had passed after a phone conversation with Caltech’s new coach, Pat Beemer, when this piece of news emerged on the Twittersphere.
— John Murphy (@PrepCat) May 29, 2013
Some very encouraging news for the coach, who had just described recruiting at Caltech as “ridiculously hard.”
“I’ve never been in a situation where you recruit the numbers first and the kid next,” he said, adding that median SAT scores for incoming students is 1570. “Fifty to seventy percent of [water polo athletes] have never played before. That being said, I have an idea of who they are. As you might suspect they’re brilliant, but eager to get better.”
Thus Beemer describes the unique task he faces having returned home to Southern California to take over one of the most unique collegiate water polo programs in the US. Caltech made the announcement on May 22 after former coach Josh Moser stepped down at the end of the women’s season.
Beemer, a native of Downey, located 20 miles south of Pasadena, spent the past three years assisting Barry King at Indiana University where the women’s team has become a perennial favorite among CWPA teams. He credits King with giving him a large role with the Hoosiers, based largely on his success during a six-year head coaching stint with the Wagner College women. There he amassed a 66-41 record, including a gaudy 28-4 mark versus MAAC opponents in his first two seasons.
The lure of Big Ten facilities and the chance to play a key role with a potential NCAA Championship squad was enough for Beemer to take a “demotion” to assistant (promoted to “associate” head coach soon after). His long-time relationship with King made the opportunity yet more compelling. But he did so always with an eye toward another head coaching position, especially one closer to home.
The UC Davis men’s job and the Caltech position opened nearly simultaneously. News of collegiate coaching openings spreads among members of the US water polo community in minutes – no different for Beemer, who quickly reached out to the school and submitted his application.
“On paper it sounded like a place I wanted to be,” Beemer said. He’d been out of California for 10 years and wanted to return. The location seemed perfect. And the job included both the men’s and women’s teams, a big plus. But his recollection of the campus was spotty after a lone visit in the sixth grade. That changed when he returned just weeks ago and found the campus “gorgeous” and Athletic Director Betsy Mitchell – former world record holder in the 200 backstroke – enthusiastic about improving athletics at the school.
“With someone like her leading the charge to become competitive it was very enticing,” says Beemer.
The positives were piling up. But what could he actually accomplish at a school with a history of athletic futility? Beemer met with a group of current Caltech coaches. They gave mixed responses: some said winning was possible, others suggested lowering expectations. One shared an anecdote to paint a picture of what Beemer could expect.
During the season this coach’s best athlete missed a practice unexpectedly. Then a second. Finally after five absences without any contact the athlete returned, arriving at practice on time without a saying word. The stunned coach cornered the athlete demanding to know where he’d been. He apologized, saying that he’d been called away and couldn’t share his location. For what? The software he’d written for the US military’s North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) needed tweaking. It was classified.
The Beaver men won four games and the women none this past year. But Beemer recognizes and welcomes the challenge. He remains on the Indiana staff through June, after which he will head to Pasadena and take on the task of coaching up some of the most unique collegiate water polo athletes in the world.