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Veteran Coach Dan Roock Retires—For Now

BY CHIP DAVIS
PHOTO BY SPORTGRAPHICS.COM/MIKE CIRILO, COURTESY

Dan Roock, most recently the head coach of men’s lightweight rowing at Dartmouth College, will retire at the end of June, after the Dartmouth lightweight four won a bronze medal at the 2022 IRA National Championship Regatta in early June on New Jersey’s Lake Mercer.

“The impetus is that I have a five-year-old daughter going to kindergarten next year, and I want to be around for that. It’s exciting.” said the always-upbeat Roock. 

A 1981 graduate of Princeton University, where he was an award-winning heavyweight oarsman and winner of two IRA championships, Roock coached medal-winning crews on the junior, collegiate, and elite levels; men and women; lightweight, heavyweight, and open.

“I see no difference between them,” Roock said. “They’re all human beings trying to propel the boat through the water. It comes down to who can reach out and pull hard. It’s pretty simple.”

Dan Roock. Courtesy Dartmouth Athletics.

“I see no difference between them,” Roock said. “They’re all human beings trying to propel the boat through the water. It comes down to who can reach out and pull hard. It’s pretty simple.”

“I have yet to meet another coach who finds the same joy in solving the puzzle that is making a boat go fast that Dan does,” said Trevor Michelson, Roock’s assistant at Dartmouth. “His knowledge of the sport is immense, made evident by the coaching conference I attended every time we ate lunch.”

Roock launched his coaching career in 1984 as an assistant coach at Florida Institute of Technology before returning to Princeton’s Lake Carnegie in 1985 to assist in coaching the women and then the heavyweights. His Princeton freshmen won both the Eastern Sprints and IRA before he coached as a graduate assistant at Syracuse. Roock holds a master of science degree in environmental engineering.

“I never intended to be a rowing coach,” said Roock, who is a two-time women’s Eastern Sprints coach of the year, four-time Jim Joy Coaches Conference award-winner, and 1999 USOC Development Coach of the Year. “I was hired to be the boatman [at FIT] and had to coach freshmen as part of the job, and it was more fun than I thought it was going to be.”

He returned to Princeton to be the head women’s coach from 1990 to ’96 and racked up a 59-2 record, winning three straight national championships from 1993 through 1995, five consecutive varsity-eight Ivy titles, five Eastern Sprints points trophies, and four Sprague Trophies (all-around performance) at national-championship regattas. His assistant coach, Lori Dauphiny, succeeded him at Princeton and has been the best female coach in collegiate rowing for the past 25 years—at Princeton during the school year, and for U.S. National Teams in the summer.

“I knew back then that she was the best coach,” said Roock of Dauphiny. “And there were a lot of greats around then—[Mike] Teti, Curtis Jordan, Joe Murtaugh. The energy she put in and, obviously, the product that came out were awesome. The hardest day of the week, the most stressful, was Wednesday, because that’s when the varsity and the novices would scrimmage, and there would be a lot of bruised egos.”

From 1997 to 2009, Roock coached the Cornell heavyweights and multiple medal-winning U.S. under-23 crews, including the eight that won gold at the Nations Cup in 2000. In 1992 and 1997, he co-coached the U.S. Junior National Team’s men’s eights, winning gold and silver, respectively.

“I’m always trying to get away from it,” Roock joked about his many breaks from collegiate coaching over a 38-year career (so far). “I loved those years [away from collegiate coaching], but rowing kept bringing me back.”

Roock’s elite-level coaching continued at Craftsbury Outdoor Center’s Green Racing Project (GRP), where he was the lead coach for three years. Among the numerous GRP athletes who raced for the U.S. in World Cup and world-championship regattas was the 2014 GRP men’s quad that won bronze medals at the Lucerne World Cup.

His most recent stint at Dartmouth is Roock’s third, following a successful initial run from 2009 to 2012 when the Big Green lightweight varsity won silver medals at the Eastern Sprints in 2011 and ’12, along with an IRA national-championship silver in 2012. Roock returned to Dartmouth in 2018 to save a floundering lightweight program and made his third start after the college cut, and then reinstated, its lightweight program in 2020 and 2021.

Roock is unlikely to remain away from coaching for long. 

“I built a house a little more than a half-mile from the [Craftsbury] Outdoor Center,” said Roock, who remains in contact with GRP lead coach Steve Whelpley and might coach in the summer camps there. “I am intrigued, and also concerned, about the U.S. system.”

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