BOURNEMOUTH Dolphins are in shock after learning that head coach Graham Bassi is poised to quit to take a top job with British Swimming.
Bassi, who has led Dolphins to unprecedented success since his arrival from Lincoln three-and-a-half years ago, has been invited to take charge of a select group of potential Olympic swimmers at the new Intensive Training Centre (ITC) in Swansea in the run-up to 2012.
Speaking yesterday, Bassi told the Daily Echo: “We have yet to dot the I’s and cross the T’s but I have told British Swimming that I am going to accept the position.
“It was a very tough decision and not one I have taken lightly.
“But I feel this is an opportunity not to be missed and I think this is probably the right time in my career to do it.
“I will be responsible for developing a small group of athletes in preparation for 2012.”
The job will also give Bassi daily access to a 50m pool and a range of back-up services such as sport science, medical support, nutritional advice, physiotherapy and land-training.
Dolphins chairman Adam McCormack said the news was “a massive blow”.
“We are very shocked,” he said.
“We have fought very hard to keep Graham with several increases in his salary and benefits.
“But I think we have just been pipped by the ITC in Swansea.”
Bassi, who expects to start his new duties in October, arrived in Bournemouth in December 2005 with a reputation as the most successful club coach in the country after taking Lincoln Vulcans from obscurity to the very top of age and youth swimming.
His first 18 months in charge were a rollercoaster ride punctuated by fall-outs with parents, a mass resignation of committee members and an exodus of swimmers as he sought to restructure the club.
Since then, however, he has led Dolphins to a best-ever second place in the Western League, their first National Swimming League B finals and this year their first A final, their first and second Southern Junior League titles and this summer to the best regional and national age group championship results in the club’s history.
As recently as last month, 13-year-old Amelia Maughan became European Youth Olympic champion in the 100m freestyle as well as winning two bronze medals in Finland.
Bassi said: “Bournemouth has been the hardest challenge of my career but in the last two years the most rewarding.
“Amelia Maughan, Joe Poynter, Martin Littlefair and Courtney Rowan all have a great opportunity to go on and swim for their country and I look forward to working with them again in the future.
“I hope to continue working with the club by offering some sort of service such as long-course training at Swansea and training camps abroad.”