Legendary USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic, who was indicted this week in connection with a nationwide college admissions scandal, has close ties to the South Bay and the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
A longtime resident of Rancho Palos Verdes, 57-year-old Vavic coached water polo at Palos Verdes High School from 1987 to 1990 before becoming a coach at USC in 1992. He took over the men’s water polo program at USC in 1999.
Vavic became known at USC as one of the most successful NCAA water polo coaches in history. His notoriety grew to such an extent that Vavic established a water polo club in the South Bay and a water polo camp, both of which are now distancing themselves from the decorated coach.
Erik Healy, director of Trojan Water Polo Club, which Vavic founded, said in a statement Friday, March 15, that Vavic has only had an advisory role in the club since 2012.
“During this time, Erik Healy has had sole responsibility in the day to day operations of the club, as well as administrative decision making,” according to the statement.
“Jovan Vavic has advised the club on tactics and strategies of the game of water polo, and that is the extent of his involvement,” the statement continued.
The Trojan Water Polo Club plays throughout the beach cities serving Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo, Palos Verdes and Torrance, according to the club’s website.
Vavic and his wife Lisa Vavic were still listed as recently as 2016 as the club’s directors, based on nonprofit tax filings.
A statement on the webpage of the Vavic Water Polo Camp, also known as the SC Water Polo Camp, noted that Vavic had been replaced by Marko Pintaric, who replaced Vavic as head USC men’s water polo coach this week, the university announced in a statement.
Vavic was indicted Tuesday, March 12, on federal racketeering charges, along with with USC athletic director Donna Heinel, who lives in Long Beach. Heinel and Vavic allegedly accepted bribes totaling more than $1.3 million and $250,000, respectively.
Peter Janov, who played for Vavic at USC in the late 1990s, worked as an assistant coach under Vavic at USC from 2000 to 2007 and coached at Trojan Water Polo Club from 2005 to 2016, said that Vavic earned his reputation as a winning coach.
“Generally speaking, his teams were almost always in the finals of NCAA Division 1,” Janov said. “That tells you how successful he was as a coach.”
Vavic maintained more of an oversight role than a hands-on one at Trojan Water Polo Club during the time Janov was coaching there.
“He oversaw the way we were coaching and made sure the kids getting all the basic things,” Janov said. “He personally showed them how to jump in the water.”
Janov said what made Vavic such a good coach was his drive and high standards.
“He wants his players to work hard and learn new things and progress,” Janov said.
Like many others, Janov was surprised to hear about the indictments.
“I am going to wait until whatever the investigation will find,” Janov said. “It doesn’t change that he was a good coach and knows what to do with a team.”