Mike Teti never said he was back to stay when he agreed to coach the US men's team last summer.
Even though he is regarded as the most successful men's coach in US rowing history, that he was able to bring together the available athletes left after the 2016 Rio Olympics and guide the formation of a competitive group and a silver medal winning eight for the 2017 World Rowing Championships, Teti did not say he wanted to leave his coaching job at the University of California to coach full time for the US.
Teti and his family love the Bay Area life and the almost always warm temperatures under equally constant blue skies. California is a distant haven from the cold Northeast winters of Philadelphia where Teti grew up and the Schuylkill River/Boathouse Row image more suited to Teti than the Sunny California surfer scene.
Teti is an East Coast, gruff and to-the-point kind of guy who starts most answers to questions with the word "Look," as if to emphasize that what he is going to tell you is what he believes is the gospel truth of the question he's answering.
He is so Philly that when the Eagles play the Patriots in Sunday's Super Bowl, he will sit in his "lucky" chair and not move, as if changing his viewing location will cause the Eagles to lose. "When it comes to the Eagles, I'm extremely superstitious," Teti said. "If I am sitting in one chair and the Eagles make a good play, I'm not moving."
But if Teti is anything, East Coast working man, Schuylkill River and a City of Brotherly Love son of a large suburban Philadelphia family, he is - as he likes to say in his own Teti way, a fan of US international rowing.
"Look, I'm a USRowing fan. I rowed on the national team. I learned to coach on the national team. I want USRowing to succeed. Not just the men's team, but the women, the lightweights, juniors, Under 23s, all of them. I'm just a big USRowing fan."
And today, in a much-anticipated move, USRowing officially announced that Teti has agreed to come back to the US fold to stay. At the close of the coming spring season, he will pass leadership of the Cal team over to whichever successor the university eventually names, and take up the mantel of USRowing men's head coach once again.
In accepting that challenge, Teti is officially extending his second stint as the head of the US men's team, a term he began as a kind of feel-it-out test last spring when USRowing was going through a painful transition from the medal-less 2016 Olympic performance, and Teti was brought in to oversee, train, and coach the men's team for the 2017 Worlds.
Men's eight on the podium in Sarasota
In that effort, he was successful. The hope now is that Teti can repeat his past coaching performances, the ones that led to a string of world championships and gold and bronze Olympic medals from 1996 to 2008 - a challenge Teti said he is looking forward to.
"I love coaching here at Cal. I really do," Teti said. "The people here have been super supportive and it's hard to walk away from that. But a lot of last summer was almost a trial run to see how these new younger guys would relate, how I could connect with them.
"It all went pretty well," he said. "I thought it was a pretty good team; obviously, they need to improve, but I'm excited about the challenges ahead."
But Teti is not giving up his California life to move back move back East to USRowing's Princeton Training Center and Mercer Lake; he will leave all of that to the women's team.
The young men of USRowing are going West.
As part of the Teti deal, USRowing also announced Wednesday that it will relocate the men's training team center to Oakland, California.
In a partnership formed with the Rogers Family Foundation, California Rowing Club, and the University of California, USRowing has reached an agreement to open its new men's training center at the T. Gary Rogers Rowing Center, which will serve as the primary training base for the men's senior national team.
Some of the athletes who were part of the 2017 men's team that was based at the Princeton training center have already relocated to Oakland. Several more athletes are planning to move there by June.
According to USRowing High Performance director Matt Imes, USRowing is expecting the training center to have some 24 athletes training full time in Oakland under Teti and men's coach Bryan Volpenhein as soon as Teti and Cal complete their current season at the IRA Championships in June.
Bryan Volpenhein and Teti at last summer's training camp in Princeton
While there are already athletes training in Oakland, the rest of the group - including several from the 2016 Olympic quadrennial - are either training on their own, or are still rowing in college and are not being asked to move to California until Teti is finished coaching at Cal.
"This gives us time," Imes said. "The one thing I want to make really clear is we are completely supportive of Cal and don't want to do anything that is going to conflict with Mike's commitment with Cal. By no means are we going to put anything in the way of Mike's commitment there and Cal's season this year."
The athletes currently training in Oakland are doing so under Teti's and Volpenhein's supervision and already have a comfortable situation, Imes said. USRowing recently held a training camp for the resident and non-resident athletes hoping to make the team for the 2018 World Rowing Championships.
"They have a great erg facility, a great weight facility, a great locker room facility there and it will be run in conjunction with Cal. It's obviously Cal's facility, and they have priority over it, but between their use of and their timing of practice, we'll be able to work around the edges of that and have access to that facility that will meet our needs," Imes said.
"Currently Mike and Bryan are supervising the guys, but they are training in multiple locations. We just ran a camp in Oakland. We had 17 or 18 guys that came out and we will probably run two or three more of these kinds of small one- or two-day camps to bring the group together. And then those guys will go back to where they are training, and as they transition to Oakland, Mike will work with them as it fits into Cal's schedule.
For this year, all planned National Selection Regatta regattas and national team trials will be held on Mercer Lake in West Windsor, NJ.
"Right now, everything is being based out of the East Coast and out of Princeton. The guys in Oakland will have to come out for NSRs and trials, but having this training center out there now allows us look into options for the potential of a West Coast Speed Order, or a West Coast Trials or NSR. It makes it a little easier for us having a presence out there now," he said.
"While Princeton University and the whole Princeton National Rowing Association, and the whole community in that area, has been supportive and has been a fantastic relationship for us, as Princeton University grows, as the PNRA program grows, it's just becoming tight on resources.
"So being able to have some dedicated space for a training group like the men is beneficial for all," Imes said. "It frees up some time and dedicated spaces for the women in Princeton and frees up some dedicated time slots and spaces for the men in Oakland."
Imes said that the Oakland community has also been welcoming to the training center athletes. "The community out here, while we have been looking into this option, has been really receptive. The ability of these guys to go out and find jobs, and being able to look into employment options has been great."
The Worst Kept Secret
The news that Teti has signed on to coach the US men full time will come as no surprise to the rowing community. It has been in the works since at least the final at the 2017 World Championships when the men's eight finished with a silver medal.
But Teti said last spring when he agreed to come back to oversee the effort men for the 2017 World Championships and establish USRowing's base for the first year of this Olympic cycle that he was not certain he would take the job full time.
He repeated that this week and said he did not decide for sure until late last fall.
"When I got cut from the national team back in 1994, Mike Spracklen asked me what my plans were," Teti said. "I think I told him my plans were to try and win this piece this afternoon. I said, 'Mike, I operate on about a six-hour cycle.'
"I don't know what I'm going to do 12 hours from now. I'm just not wired that way," Teti said. "When I was first coaching at USRowing, I did the best job I could, and I came out here to coach Cal and do the best job I could here. It wasn't like I thought I was going to coach at Cal for a couple of years, and then come back. I didn't know."
Teti said that his experience last summer had much to do with his decision.
Teti in his launch in Princeton
"Last summer was about as much fun as I have ever had coaching," Teti said. "I really had a lot of fun. That had a lot to do with the mix of athletes we had. It was an easy group of guys. It was fun. It was no drama. It was fun, and the group was getting a little bit better. But it was also being with Bryan and all the college coaches.
"So that influenced me for sure. If we can continue on that path, if we get buy-in from the collegiate coaches, and we have the same athletes, I thought this could be really a fun thing."
For now, Teti said the hope is to build on last summer's success and draw in more potential candidates from the collegiate ranks as well as entice older veteran athletes to stay, and those that left after Rio to return.
"The first priority will be to try and retain the guys that we have and to get some of the older kids from the last quadrennial to come back," Teti said. "That will be helpful, and then the main focus will be on the undergraduates, making sure we don't lose anybody that has potential to win medals for us.
"There are some really good kids in the university programs, and we need to corral them and get them on the Under 23 or senior team and develop all the kids that need to be developed. That's our inventory. Collegiate rowing is on a high level across the board. And that was what was helpful last summer along with having the college coaches involved, and that's what we will continue to do."
See also the USRowing press release: National Team Training Center Opening in Oakland; Teti Announced as U.S. Men’s Head Coach Beginning in June