The 2018-19 season will be the first in the history of Alabama rowing that the team will have a coach other than Larry Davis, who had coached the team from its inception in 2006 to his retirement in May.
Alabama athletics announced on June 15 that Glenn Putyrae, who led Gonzaga to top-20 finishes in the NCAA championships in five of the past six years, would be the program’s next head coach.
“(Three) areas really stood out for us as we progressed through the interview process with Glenn,” UA director of athletics Greg Byrne said in a statement announcing the hire. “Those were his passion, his work ethic and his vision and belief for the future of this program.”
Putyrae did not start rowing until high school, and even then it was only because he failed to make the teams for other sports. But he found that it fit his physique and work ethic, so he rowed competitively through high school and for four years at the University of Washington.
At that point Putyrae had already decided he wanted to teach high-school English or social studies and coach rowing. As long as he got to teach, whether in the classroom or on the water, he was content.
He maintained the high-school plan for the next six years of graduate study and assistant coaching until he was offered his first full-time collegiate coaching job at Gonzaga in 1999.
“(I love) the idea of sharing something I know with somebody who doesn’t know anything about it,” Putyrae said. “I want to create an environment where passion (for rowing) is evident.”
When Putyrae was a kid, his father started a sales business, displaying a work ethic that his son would adopt himself and later instill into his rowers. He believes teams take on the character of their coach and that he needs to demonstrate whatever traits he wants his team to acquire.
“I learned (from my dad) hard work is rewarded,” Putyrae said. “And how can I ask that of my rowers if I don’t model that myself?”
That circles back to another trait Putyrae considers a core value of his coaching style along with consistency and respect: accountability.
He said he learned accountability from handling a paper route as a boy. When customers called his boss complaining about where he threw their newspapers, his parents weren’t there to bail him out. He had to go apologize to them himself, in person, which he said prepared him to lead and motivate his rowers to take ownership of their own preparation.
Vision and belief
As soon as Byrne contacted Putyrae regarding Alabama’s coaching vacancy and all the way through his arrival in Tuscaloosa, the coach felt believed in.
Byrne told him to ask for anything he felt like he needed and that the athletic department was willing to invest in the rowing program to help Putyrae lift it to greater heights.
Putyrae was present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new athletics dining facility, standing in front of the crowd with the likes of Byrne, football coach Nick Saban and UA president Stuart Bell. He said he never anticipated the support the University gives all its sports, from football down to less-publicized sports like rowing.
He was “in awe” at the resources available to Alabama rowing, including a boathouse at Manderson Landing, which he said only a few Division I teams have.
Putyrae said the teams he has previously coached have “nothing close” to the caliber of resources at his disposal in Tuscaloosa, which has him feeling optimistic about his staying power in his new position and the future potential of Alabama rowing.
“We have everything we need to be successful. Our only limitations are human capabilities,” Putyrae said. “… This is my final stop (of my coaching career). If I can do the type of job I expect to be able to do, this will be my last stop.”