by Eva Dean Folkert
The MIAA swimming coaches and hundreds of fans at the Holland Aquatic Center celebrated the long and successful career of Hope College coach John Patnott on Friday night with a special opening ceremony at the 2019 MIAA Swimming and Diving Championships. After 39 years leading both of the men's and women's swimming and diving teams, Patnott will be retiring from coaching at Hope at the end of this season.
Lauded as the "dean" of the MIAA swim coaches for his four-decade tenure and respected for his many honors in the college swimming world — both personal and for the success of his swimmers — Patnott was presented with a plaque by co-head coach Jake Taber highlighting those achievements. Hope co-athletic director Melinda Larson and Calvin College swim coach Dan Gelderloos also offered words of recognition at the ceremony instigated by the league coaches.
"Although these coaching honors are many, what is even more important and evident is that John is an even better husband (to wife, Phyllis), father (to daughters Megan, Jenna and Heather), and person," said co-head coach Jake Taber '04 who was a Hope swimmer for Patnott from 200o to 2004. "Thank you, Coach, for what you have done for us all."
Over the course of his career, Patnott has been named a National Coach of the Year in Division III three times, won 33 MIAA championships combined between the two teams, and holds a record of 319-75 in MIAA dual meets. Patnott has coached 120 All-Americans, 41 Academic All-Americans, and 31 national champions who swam to eight NCAA records. In May 2018, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America.
"It was very, very nice. You know me, I'm not comfortable with that. This meet is about the student-athletes, not some old man," said Patnott, who was visibly moved by the gesture. "But I was honored by all the coaches. It meant a lot."
Also an award-winning professor of kinesiology at Hope, Patnott will continue teaching at the college until the end of the 2018-19 academic year.
Story photos by Tom Renner