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Vol. LXII, No. 32
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
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(Photo courtesy of USRowing)

FINAL PUSH: Mike Teti is wrapping up his tenure as the U.S. Rowing men’s head coach at the Beijing Summer Games. Teti, the Princeton University men’s freshman heavyweight coach from 1989-1996, will take the helm of the University of California, Berkeley men’s rowing program after the Olympics. Teti has been with the U.S. program since 1996 and guided the men’s eight to a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Games.

Teti Focused on Producing Olympic Success in Swan Song as U.S. Rowing Men’s Coach

Bill Alden

Mike Teti didn’t exactly jump at the opportunity to coach in the U.S. national rowing program.

“Well actually I said no three times,” said Teti, the Princeton University men’s freshman heavyweight coach from 1989-1996.

“I stayed at Princeton all those years because I just loved it there. I loved everything about it, from the athletic department to the admissions department to the other coaches to the janitors. Seriously, it was like a big family.”

Teti, though, did join the U.S. rowing family after the 1996 Olympics, accepting a post as the head men’s sweep coach.

The fiery Teti quickly became a patriarch of the U.S. crew clan, guided the men’s eight to three straight world championships from 1997-99 and rising to head men’s coach after the 2000 Summer Games.

In 2004 Summer Olympics, Teti reached the pinnacle of the rowing world when the men’s eight set a world record on the way to winning the gold medal, marking the first time the U.S. had won the event since 1964.

Next week, Teti, who recently agreed to become the head coach of the University of California, Berkeley men’s rowing program, will be looking to end his U.S. tenure on a high note at the Beijing Summer Games.

As he looked forward to the journey to Beijing, Teti, 51, said he was planning to utilize the same formula that led to the eight’s success in 2004.

“There has to be balance between experience and some youth; balance between some power and some skill,” said Teti, whose younger brother, Paul, will also be in Beijing as a rower on the U.S. men’s four.

“Sometimes you put the eight best technical rowers in there and it is technically very, very good but you are missing a little bit of grunt.”

Teti, an Olympic bronze medalist in the 1988 Games in the men’s eight, likens the selection process to putting together a basketball team.

“When you assemble a basketball team, you need a rebounder,” said Teti.

“He may not be the best player but in that role he is really good. This guy is a point guard; he may not have the scoring capacity as this other guy but you need someone to dish it to this guy. I think that the boat is made up of catalysts and enablers, more or less. All of them are catalysts in a way but by this guy being in the boat it enables that guy to throw a little bit more juice on there which translates to speed.”

For Teti, the challenge of putting together boats that could excel on the international stage is one of the reasons he ultimately joined the U.S. program.

“I remember when I got into coaching at Temple and I talked to Kris Korzeniowski who had coached me when I rowed,” said Teti, a native of Upper Darby, Pa. who was a rowing star at St. Joseph’s University.

“We were just talking one day, just about coaching in general and he said ‘you are a pretty good coach and you are going to get opportunities and you have to take advantage of those opportunities.’ He said you have the guts to really step outside and take the risk.”

Known for his colorful and sometimes profane entreaties to his athletes, Teti has taken the opportunity to refine his coaching style during his tenure with the national program.

“I think you try to adapt,” said Teti, with a wry smile. “The guys that are around now that were around 10 years ago would definitely say that I have softened up. The new guys would probably tell you the opposite. There are certain principles that you have but you adapt to the crew. Some people respond to the fiery approach. Some guys here I can just tell them a little bit more this and they’ll respond.”

In the final weeks before the Beijing Games, Teti was focused on making the adjustments that could lead to medals.

“We’ll go back to our normal training program but more geared to preparation,” explained Teti.

“We’ll figure out what’s the character of the crew, what do we feel is the best way to race this, and what cadence are we most efficient at. We’ll work on things like starts; just rehearsing all that stuff.”

If Teti can push the right buttons, his final act with the U.S. should be a show stopper.

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