PHILADELPHIA – The University of Pennsylvania's director of athletics, Steve Bilsky, has announced the hiring of Nick Baker as the head coach of the men’s lightweight rowing team. The announcement was made Tuesday.
“Nick impressed everyone at Penn with his determination and focus as to what he wants to accomplish,” said Bilsky. “He's a fine addition to our coaching staff and we look forward to welcoming him back to Philadelphia.”
“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” Baker said. “I’m excited to be at a school that has made a commitment to the future of its lightweight program and to giving its athletes the best opportunity to win. I’m excited to work in the Ivy League and to have the opportunity to work with those students, and I look forward to moving back to the Philadelphia area. With historic Boathouse Row, Philadelphia is the center of rowing in the U.S.
“The sky is the limit with a team that is based out of Boathouse Row,” Baker added. “Penn is on the verge of turning the corner and can be competitive with any of the Ivy schools. It’s all about getting the right recruits and the right individuals.”
Baker comes to Penn with seven years of coaching experience, serving most recently as the head coach of the men’s lightweight team at Navy last season. The Midshipmen’s varsity 8 was ranked in the top four all season in 2009 and earned the silver medal at the prestigious Head of Charles Regatta, while the lightweight 4+ took the bronze medal at the same event. Also while serving at the helm in Annapolis, Baker’s junior varsity and third varsity boats finished the season with only one regular-season loss apiece, with the junior varsity winning the silver medal at EARC Sprints.
Prior to taking over the head coaching duties, Baker served as the lightweight assistant at Navy for three seasons. During that time, he coached the freshman boats to six medals (two gold, two silver and two bronze) in six attempts at EARC Sprints as well as accumulating IRA gold (2007) and silver (2008) medals. Under his direction, the first and second freshman boats went a combined 21-5 in the regular season, including one undefeated season for each boat. In addition to his coaching duties at Navy, Baker spent two years serving as an Assistant Compliance Director.
Before leaving for the United States Naval Academy, Baker spent one season as the heavyweight assistant coach at Yale where he led the third varsity boat to an undefeated cup season and the EARC Sprints title.
Also on Baker’s coaching resume are stints the West Side Rowing Club in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia.
“Nick has a great track record and he’ll be a great addition to Penn and the Ivy League,” said Steve Perry, Baker’s predecessor at Navy and current head coach at Dartmouth. “His crews are always competitive and row with great tenacity. He is a very good technician and brings fantastic professionalism to the job. Nick has a lot of experience on the Schuylkill River and he knows Philadelphia pretty well. In my humble opinion, that will all carry over to Penn pretty well.”
“Nick is very well organized and knows the sport well,” said Navy Heavyweights Senior Associate Head Coach Rob Friedrich. “We’re very sorry to see him go. He’s one of the better lightweight coaches in our league. But we know he’s excited to take over the Penn job and ready to build that program into one of the best in the country. He’s learned a lot during his years as a coach, and he knows the Philadelphia community pretty well.”
In addition to his strong coaching credentials, Baker earned numerous accolades as an athlete. At the University at Buffalo, he served as team captain and president of the rowing team. He also served as captain of the West Side Rowing Club, winning a pair of club national titles and four Canadian Henley championships. Baker was awarded West Side's Broderick Plate, the highest individual award presented by the club to a male athlete for character, leadership and sportsmanship.
Baker, a 2001 graduate of the University at Buffalo, succeeds former head coach Mike Irwin who left the position last month after spending seven seasons with the Quakers.