Although they lived oceans apart, Don Gambril and Yutaka Terao were very good
friends. Don would welcome Yutaka during his many trips from Japan to the
United States with contingents of Japanese swimming coaches looking to observe
and learn from established swimming clubs in the country. Don’s leadership
style of character and example embraced Yutaka’s style of doing for others
to help others.
After spending two years in the U. S. Navy, Don started coaching swimmers
in 1958. For the next 35 years he coached on every level imaginable, winning
high honors for his swimmers, his teams, his country and himself.
Don started coaching at the high school level and spent his first seven
years at Rosemead High (CA) (1958-1963) and Arcadia High (CA) (1963-1965). He
taught social studies and physical education. During the next six years he
coached and taught physical education at Pasadena City College (1965-1967) and
Long Beach State University (1967-1971). All the while he was building a
powerhouse AAU club team at City of Commerce and then Phillips 66 Long Beach.
His swimmers included Hall of Famer Sharon Stouder, Gunnar Larson, Patty
Caretto and more. His swimmers won National Championships and Olympic gold
In 1971, Don moved across country to become Harvard University swimming
coach for two years before settling in at the University of Alabama in 1973,
where he coached until his university retirement in 1996. At Alabama he was 17
years Head Men’s Swimming Coach and 10 years Head Women’s Swimming Coach.
In 1990, he retired from coaching to become Assistant Athletic Director
responsible for all men’s sports with the exception of football and
basketball and all women’s sports except gymnastics, 15 in all. His own
swimmer, Hall of Famer Jonty Skinner, succeeded him on the pool deck. All
totaled in college/university competition, Don compiled a 350-60 win/loss
record. His teams achieved 15 top-ten NCAA finishes with a highest place of
second in 1977.
Don’s swimmers won five National Team Championships and combined, broke
20 world records, earning 14 Olympic gold medals. He was named the Assistant
Olympic U.S. Swimming Coach in 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980 and Olympic Head Coach
to the successful 1984 Team. He was Assistant World Championship Coach in 1978
and World Championship Head Coach in 1991 at Perth, Australia. He was also
Head Coach of the 1983 Pan-American Games, 1977 World Student Games, 1977 and
1981 Macabian Games, 1989 Pan Pacific Games, 1990 Goodwill Games and 1966,
1989 USA vs. Russia Dual Meets. All totaled, he coached 18 U.S. National
But it was Don’s home-town type of personality that drew Yutaka and him
together. This was seen in every clinic and lecture he gave. A much sought
after speaker and clinician, he has traveled to 54 countries and all but one
of the 50 states since 1963. He is the author of Swimming (1968), Swimmer
and Coach (1982), Alabama Swimming Practice (1984), Winning
Season (1985) and Tide Team Work (1989). He has made swimming
stroke and training videos: Classic Series (1976-1978) and Gold
Medal Series (1984).
Don has served on the U.S. Swimming Steering and Rules Committees and Board
of Directors. He has served on the NCAA Peer Reviews and Rules Committees. He
was 20 years on the American Swimming Coaches Association Board of Directors
and served as President and Vice President. Gambril has developed numerous
successful swimmers and teams over the years. Importantly, he has shared his
ideas so that others may also succeed.