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Szabo: Newland goes into Hall of Fame his way

Reporter's Notebook

April 06, 2014|By Matt Szabo

One of the first topics that Ted Newland mentioned Saturday night in his USA Water Polo Hall of Fame induction speech was love. Yes, before he went on to blast other longtime coaches and decry the current state of USA Water Polo, he brought up love.

"I have a gift, and not many people have it," Newland said. "I can give love. You can laugh, I don't care, but I can. If you can give love, people will love you and they'll follow you to hell, because every human being, like it or not, wants to be loved."

Newland could feel the love in the room at the Hotel Irvine Jamboree Center. More than 400 people attended the Hall of Fame induction and national awards presentation, which USA Water Polo CEO Christopher Ramsey said was the most ever for this event. Many were former players there to support Newland, the 86-year-old who, to a large degree, helped bring high-quality water polo to Orange County.

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They call him "the old man," but he wasn't always that way. Newland initiated the water polo programs at Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar high schools before coaching at UC Irvine for 39 years, piling up 714 wins — the most in collegiate history — and three national championships. More than a dozen of his players went on to become Olympians, including ceremony attendees like Genai Kerr and Ryan Bailey.

Kerr was on the host committee. He said during the event reception that he admired the way that Newland led by example, both on the pool deck but also in life.

At times, Newland's speech seemed like just a rant. At other times, it seemed like a roast. But I felt that his speech, which ran about 17 minutes, showed just how much of a leader he was. It was electric. It was funny, sharp, to the point and also jaw-dropping honest at times. In that way, the speech was vintage Newland.

He called out some of the other more successful coaches in the room, Jovan Vavic and Terry Schroeder. Newland is clearly not a fan of the way that Vavic, who has won 13 combined men's and women's national championships at USC, recruits international players to play for him.

Minutes earlier, Vavic had received the Monte Nitzkowski distinguished coaching award. Newland clearly had a different view.

"Jovan coaches nothing but foreigners," Newland said, to plenty of nervous laughter. "He wins, that's all you think about. I don't think he's a great coach, I'll tell you right now. Anybody can win if you buy the talent."

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