Kevin Wright misses a lot about the state in which he spent most of his life. He doesn’t miss the weather.
Wright, a graduate of Bangor High School and the University of Maine, is now the head diving coach at Texas A&M University.
“On the first day of the ice storm, I was sitting in shorts and a T-shirt in my backyard,” Wright said from his office at the school’s College Station campus. “I don’t miss the deep winter but from a psychological standpoint it’s hard down here. There’s just a subtle transition between seasons. Sometimes I get homesick in the fall.”
Wright, a three-time diving All-American while at Bangor High, won’t be seeing any New England autumns in the near future – there’s too much work to do with his diving squad.
Wright may be one of the only diving coaches in the country to have his own program. He doesn’t answer to a swimming coach, as is the arrangement at most universities. He has his own budget which he uses to bring in experts to help him evaluate the program.
“It’s a wonderful situation,” said Wright, who has been at A&M for five years. “Historically, diving coaches have had to answer to the swimming coaches. It hasn’t allowed the profession to grow and this is a step in the right direction. I have the freedom to do what I know how to do.”
Using business skills that he picked up as an account executive at the John Harland Company, a check-printing company based in Atlanta with printing offices in Maine and several other states, Wright made the situation for himself.
While serving as the A&M diving coach supervised by the swimming coaches, Wright wrote up a proposal for an autonomous diving program, which he presented to the university administration. That was granted three years ago, when the school built a $12.9 million indoor facility.
Wright has also used his experiences as a collegiate diver to help him coach.
After his graduation from Bangor, Wright got a scholarship to dive for the successful program at Ohio State University. At OSU he earned All-America honors and dove against Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, then a student at the University of California-Irvine, at the 1980 NCAA championships at Harvard University.
Wright said the experience of competing against Louganis, who dominated collegiate diving in the early 1980s, has helped him in competition against his current rivals – the diving coaches at the University of Texas.
The A&M program, which is in the same Big 12 conference as Texas, has been successful of late. The Aggies have won four of the last six men’ conference titles.
Unprepared for the level of commitment that the OSU coaches asked from him, Wright returned to Maine.
“[OSU] was a very, very demanding program,” he said. “I came in without a clear vision of what was expected. There was a lot of frustration and unhappiness.”
Wright graduated from UMaine with a degree in physical education in 1983 and went to work for John Harland. But Wright said his experience at OSU has helped him understand what the members of his team go through when they first get to school.
“I talk to my recruits honestly,” he said. “I can draw directly on my own experiences. It wasn’t all bad. I was an All-American for Ohio State, so I was a part of that rich tradition. Being a part of that legacy helps me.”
One thing Wright won’t do now, however, is get into the pool.
“I don’t lead by example,” Wright said with a laugh. “I don’t think I’d look too good in a Speedo anymore.”