Legendary swim and dive coach retires from URI after 50 years

Mick Westkott has coached the women’s program since the team’s inception in 1975. PHOTO CREDIT: Melissa Marchese

After a half-decade, the University of Rhode Island’s longest-tenured coach has decided to hang up his whistle for good.

The University announced on March 30 that Mick Westkott will retire following a 50-year run with the Swimming and Diving program. Westkott finishes as the NCAA’s 10th winningest head coach all-time with 349 victories between both the men’s and women’s teams from 1972-2021.

Following 49 years as the program’s first head coach (43 in which he coached both the men’s and women’s teams), he became the team’s associate head coach in 2021 when Lilli Deering was promoted to the lead role.

Westkott’s passion for working with student-athletes never wavered, going back to his first year on the job.

“The joy that I received from coaching young people was a great incentive to get involved in this program,” he said. “Once I got going, the passion just took hold and never let go.”

Even after five decades, Westkott said there were “too many” great memories to pick one that sticks with him the most. To him, each season was special in its own way.

“They’re all very unique and very special,” he said. “There’s just too many good experiences.”

Looking back, Westcott attributed his long tenure at URI to the people that have surrounded him throughout his time in Kingston. From student-athletes to others working in athletics, the people he met along the way made him feel at home.

“This department is a great department to work in,” he said. “It grabs you and you don’t know your life without it. So why think about going someplace else?”

One of the people that Westkott has worked with the longest was Deering. A former swimmer with the program from 2007-2011 and an assistant on the staff since 2015, she has worked closely with Westkott for much of the last 15 years. With Deering transitioning to head coach last season, she credited him for helping her make the jump in year one.

“His support this year has been tremendous,” she said. “I really don’t know if I could’ve done it without him here.”

Now going into her second season in the role, Deering knows following up the legacy her predecessor left behind will not be an easy task. 

“I think just continuing a lot of traditions he’s created over those years and as well as the traditions I created here as an athlete [is his legacy],” she said. “Family has always been a really big part of our program.”

Deering also hopes that former athletes and alumni will continue to visit Kingston and support the program in the coming years.

While next season will mark the first time in the program’s history where Westkott is not on the coaching staff, he believes that the program is in good hands with Deering at the helm. He said that the importance of having a woman leading the program — which has been solely a women’s team since 2008 — is important when it comes to relating to the student-athletes.

“She brings so much to the program and they all know her,” Westkott said. “It’s the best move that this department could have made for this program.”

As for Westkott himself, he does not have any solid plans in place for post-retirement life. He expressed interest in becoming a writer, wanting to chronicle all of his experiences from his many decades in Kingston. But regardless of where the road takes him from here, Westkott has cemented his legacy as a staple in URI athletics history.