Legendary retired University of Miami swim team coach Bill Diaz celebrated his 89th birthday late last month with a pizza party at South Miami’s Big Cheese Restaurant surrounded by family, friends and members of the teams he coached over a 50-year career.
Diaz, who coached several All America swimmers at the UM, including Steve Lichtner, Robert Strauss, Bill Morrison, John Spire, Robert Vandermere and Todd Ford, also coached US Olympic and Pan American Games athletes, retired in 1986 after serving 15 years as head coach of the UM team after being hired by former athletic director and head football coach Charlie Tate. He began his career in 1953 after being named All Dade County Coach of the Year five times and winning the Men’s and Women’s State Swimming Championship as a coach at Miami Jackson High School. He subsequently moved to Miami Springs High School, and ultimately to the UM.
Former UM swim team members from around the country came to the Big Cheese to honor their old coach and wish him a happy birthday. They included Jorge and Albert Otero, Gail Dugan Gregg, Frank Quesada, former Captain Doug “Duke” Hartman, legendary Iron Arrow members Carol and Joe Pineda, and Hall of Famer Norm Parsons.
Even representatives from the UM Sports Hall of Fame attended the gala event, along with the current swim team coach Andy Kershaw. Coach Diaz, obviously moved by the adoration and support from so many of the athletes he coached over the years, acknowledged that he had an outstanding career in athletics and that he was honored to see so many old friends and associates.
“I want to thank Coach Diaz,” said UM’s Coach Kershaw. “It was such an honor to share in the celebration. I hope to uphold Coach Diaz’s legacy for many years to come. I have only known him a short time and can already tell that he is a tremendous person and UM Hall of Fame Coach.”