Same story, different team for Knepple, Naugy swimming

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BY KEN MORSE
CITIZEN’S NEWS
You don’t just come in and replace a coach that has been an icon in the sport for several decades, but that is exactly what Naugatuck swim coach Dan Knepple has walked into taking over the reins for legendary coach Jim McKee.
It’s kind of hard to fathom taking over or even filling the shoes of a coach that has garnered over 650 wins and won 24 NVL titles. The footsteps are even kind of similar.
McKee first took over the boys program in 1976 and ten years later started coaching the girls team as well. That commitment to coach both the girls and boys teams begins around August getting things set for the season and ends somewhere around the end of March. Not a job for everyone.
“When I first took over the boys I relied on the seniors to carry a good portion of the load,” said Knepple. “Now some of the younger swimmers have developed and are making solid contributions.”
Knepple took over the boys program when McKee decided to go with just one team in the 2018-2019 season. Four years later McKee relinquished his duties with the girls team and Knepple again followed in his footsteps and took on the girls team as well.
Both times the young coach was handed a team that was the NVL runner-up from the year before. In essence McKee didn’t leave the cupboard bare; he in fact left when the teams were on the upswing.
“It certainly helped the transition process taking over teams that were the NVL runner-up the year before,” said Knepple. “That allowed me to just concentrate on putting the lineup together and not have to worry about teaching a whole lot of technique. These kids were very adept at what they needed to do to be successful.”
No one is expecting coach Knepple to start stringing together NVL championships, but he is well aware of the culture that has been embedded in the foundation of the Naugatuck swim program.
“I have a couple of freshmen on the girls team, but for the most part the rest are returning swimmers,” said Knepple. “I’m taking over some of the processes he did in the past and working to get the same results. Right now I’m working with Dave Kunces as the assistant coach for the girls team. Trying to keep things the same so its familiar but still putting my own touch on things.”
“For the boys team I’m going to have Austin Herb, a former Naugy swimmer, come on as a volunteer assistant. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m trying to get the numbers up for both of these teams because we have the talent. We just need some depth.”
The Greyhounds are led by three seniors, Ayana Williams, Leticia DoNascimento and Lauren Litke. The Naugatuck girls began the season on Sept. 15 against Watertown.