For Gangloff, swimming was a family affair — his grandparents owned a swim team, and he was encouraged to get in the water at a young age. By the time he was eight years old, swimming became his passion, quickly manifesting into a dream to achieve at the highest level.
“I think the Olympic dream starts with every kid when they’re little,” Gangloff said. “It had been a dream forever.”
The dream led him to Auburn, where from 2001 to 2005 he helped the team win two national titles and four straight SEC titles. As an individual competitor, Gangloff earned 12 All-America honors and won SEC titles in four events: the 100 and 200 breast and the 200 and 400 medley relays.
And, while still an undergraduate, he accomplished the goal he had since he was a child.
“When I touched the wall and qualified for my first Olympics, it was just a huge relief,” Gangloff said. “I didn’t jump up and down or celebrate. It was just awesome, a sigh of relief.”
The Olympics were a whirlwind for the young Gangloff, but he managed to win gold in the 4×100 medley relay, swimming in the same heat as Michael Phelps.
Gangloff felt more prepared the second time around in 2008 at Beijing, winning another gold medal in the same event. But still, the opportunity to see LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, and sit next to Roger Federer at lunch, was special.
“Realizing that the history that you’re a part of and the team you’re a part of is USA Swimming and the USA as a whole gives you a lot of pride to be representing your country at the Olympic games," Gangloff said. "A lot of people are back home watching it, and you’re hopefully inspiring the next generation of young athletes.”
In between his two appearances at the Olympics, Gangloff began coaching at a professional swim team in Charlotte. It was then that Gangloff realized his passion for coaching and took on assistant positions: first at his alma mater, then at Missouri.
“When I noticed that athletes began responding to the things I was teaching, that opened up the doors for me to become a coach and actually motivate me to want more,” Gangloff said. “When you see somebody getting better from what you’re telling them, it really motivates you to keep doing it and trying to explore better ways of coaching, better way of thinking about how to make someone the best they can be.”
In his seven years at Missouri, the Tigers had five top-15 finishes at both the men’s and women’s NCAA Championships. He led the team to back-to-back top-10 NCAA finishes in 2016 and 2017, and was ranked eighth nationally in 2016, a program-best.
Despite his resume, filling the role as a first-time head coach at UNC was a daunting task nevertheless.
“There’s nerves every day,” Gangloff said. “There was nerves coming in. There was nerves about applying for the job. There was nerves about getting the job. There’s nerves about continuing it.”
He felt the pressure to fill in the big shoes left for him, but was motivated by the success of North Carolina athletics in all fields. He was especially inspired by UNC coaches like with Olympic experience like Anson Dorrance, Karen Shelton and Jenny Levy.
“There’s a culture of excellence here,” Gangloff said. “I feel like I am around like-minded people in terms of they also want to achieve the highest thing in their specific arenas, and I want to do the same here. That makes it feel very much like home.”
Junior Emma Cole said the team’s culture is built on positivity and trust, and that it was Gangloff’s investment and spirit that built the team dynamic.
“We’re really enjoying having him,” Cole said. “The attitude on the team is very positive surrounding the new coach. It’s always kind of a tough situation that new coaches come into when they don’t really know how the team is going to react to them — the new philosophies, training, regimes that they bring in — but I think our team has done a good job of keeping an open mind and being excited about the process.”
“Calm,” “perceptive" and “analytical” are just a few words used to describe Gangloff's coaching style, Cole said. On the pool deck, he appears stoic and still, but Gangloff is always watching and encouraging.
“I wouldn't say he’s the most vocal person on the pool deck, but he encourages us to be,” Cole said. “He wants our team to be the team everybody looks to as the team having the most fun and the most energy. He said we should be winning the energy competition at a meet.”
Associate head coach, Jack Brown says it's Gangloff's analytical mind that makes him a special coach. The two roomed together on the national team and coached together for seven years at Missouri before Gangloff recruited Brown to join the UNC staff.
“I had kind of known for a little bit that if he left and asked me to come, I would have probably left with him, just because I really do believe in him as a leader,” Brown said. “I believe in him as a coach. I think he’s an amazing coach in swimming, both from a physiological component and a technical component of coaching.”
Brown said that Gangloff is not an authoritarian coach, but one that is open to ideas and listens, learns and grows along with the team. And after just a few months in Chapel Hill, Gangloff is all in at UNC.
“One key thing is just how absolutely invested he is into the Carolina culture, into this brand, and into the individuals that he is working with,” said Brown. “He has taken to that mantle so quickly. I’m taking as many notes as I can, because I think he’s doing an amazing job.”
Gangloff has already grown into the new responsibilities as head coach, but his larger goals require time. On the top of that list of goals: making the team respected on the national level, and continuing a history of UNC excellence.
“I see the pride of the people that represent this place and I think that’s really exciting,” Gangloff said. “I think this is a special place, and I think it will be special for the swimmers and divers that run through the program.”
@DTHSports | email@example.com