Jovan Vavic, USC Water Polo Coach: 5 Fast Facts

Jovan Vavic


Jovan Vavic is the current head coach of both the men’s and the women’s water polo team at the University of Southern California. He has been indicted in a massive college admissions investigation that has also included coaches from other schools, as well as actresses like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.

Vavic has not given an immediate statement. At USC, other coaches indicted include women’s soccer coach Ali Khrosroshahin, as well as Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer, and USC associate athletic director, Donna Heinel.

In a CNN update on March 12, USC confirmed that it had fired Vavic, as well as Heinel. Here is the full statement from USC regarding the alleged scam:

We are aware of the ongoing wide-ranging criminal investigation involving universities nationwide, including USC. USC has not been accused of any wrongdoing and will continue to cooperate fully with the government’s investigation.
We understand that the government believes that illegal activity was carried out by individuals who went to great lengths to conceal their actions from the university. USC is conducting an internal investigation. Donna Heinel and Jovan Vavic have been terminated and the university will take additional employment actions as appropriate. USC is in the process of identifying any funds received by the university in connection with this alleged scheme. Additionally, the university is reviewing its admissions processes broadly to ensure that such actions do not occur going forward.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Vavic Is a 13-Time National Coach of the Year

Vavic has had an extremely successful run during his tenure as head water polo coach at USC. Per his bio, Vavic has won the most team titles of any USC head coach in the history of the school.

Though you can read his history as a coach at length on his USC bio, here is a snippet:

Jovan Vavic, one of the most decorated water polo coaches in the country, serves a dual role as the head coach of both the USC men’s and women’s teams. He has been with the USC women’s program since its inception in 1995, and has led both teams to national championships three times in the same school year (1998-99, 2003-04 and 2009-10). A 15-time National Coach of the Year and 13-time MPSF Coach of the Year, Vavic boasts a grand total of 16 combined national titles (10 men’s and six women’s)  and has coached 14 Cutino Award winners. He’s coming off a third calendar-year sweep, as the USC women won it all in spring 2018 followed by the USC men’s title run in fall 2018. In 2018, the USC women went 26-1 overall, claiming the MPSF Tournament title before pressing on to win the program’s sixth national championship with a win over Stanford at USC’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Vavic was named MPSF Coach of the Year for the 13th time and collected his 15th National Coach of the Year award after the women’s 2018 season.

2. Vavic & His Wife, Lisa, Have Four Children; Two of Them Have Played Water Polo for Their Father

Per his USC bio, Vavic and his wife, Lisa Vavic, have four children: Monica, Marko, Stefan, and Nikola. Nikola and Monica both played water polo for their father at USC, and won national championships with their teams during their time at USC.

Per USC in 2017, Vavic’s third child, Marko, was set to play water polo at USC in 2018.

3. Vavic Has Said Previously That There’s no ‘Secret’ to His Success

In an interview with USC in the summer of 2017, Vavic revealed that he didn’t believe there was a specific reason for why he was so successful, besides the fact that he works hard.

He said, “There’s no secret, such as a great talent, brains or intelligence. Anybody can be successful in anything if they just put in the time and work.” He also argued that there was “no difference” between coaching men and women, since he does both. He did admit that it takes variation to be a good coach, since different athletes require different coaching styles. He said, “You have to learn how to work with them in different ways.”

Vavic also cited his desire to always be learning and growing, despite his impressive experience. He said, “Most young coaches think they know it all. But the learning process is really what keeps you going.”

4. Vavic Grew up in Montenegro, & Has Played Water Polo Professionally

Per USC, Vavic grew up in Herceg Novi, a town in Montenegro, which was formally a part of the old Yugoslavia. He started playing water polo at eight years old, he explained in the article, and eventually went on to play professionally for a period of time.

As for his own success in the sport, Vavic credited his passion for learning. He said, “My teammates would just do what the coaches told them, but I was intrigued by the little things of the sport and learning what it took to play more than one position. I was a student of the game.”

To Los Angeles Magazine, he also pointed out that he succeeded largely because he stuck around while others quit. He said, “Many people are not willing to push and wait for their chance. Some of them wanted it immediately. Some had other interests. Some thought they had more talent than they did. In my opinion, they were quitting because it was hard.”

5. Vavic Has Been Described as One of the ‘Most Colorful Collegiate Coaches’ in History

In a profile of Vavic by Los Angeles MagazineVavic was described as one of the most “colorful” and winningest coaches in collegiate history.

At one point, Vavic said to the magazine, “If you’re still being criticized as a senior, you’re a dumb*ss. I’m sorry, but you are. Usually my upperclassmen aren’t getting criticized unless they are total dumb*sses.”

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