By Doug Ottewill, Mile High Sports Magazine
Never mind that 27-year old Maurice “Stringy” Ervin had never been the coach of a swim team. Forget, for that matter, that he’d never swam competitively atany point in his life. In 1968, when Littleton High School administrators offered the job of head boys swim coach to Ervin, who was known better at the school for being a standout in football, basketball and baseball, the proposition was mysterious at best. He was an athlete and competitor — that was a fact — but not a swimmer.
In 1959, as the starting quarterback on the Littleton Lions football team — an All-American, no less — Ervin led the school to its first-ever state championship. That winter, as an all-state basketball player, he again led the Lions to yet another state title. He was an all-conference baseball player in the spring. Even after high school, he was on his way to becoming a college gridiron star before an injury derailed the plan. After graduating from college, he became an assistant football coach and then a head baseball coach at Highland High School. Never — not once — did he consider swimming.
But, nearly 50 years after that seemingly strange job offer came across his desk, Ervin is being inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame — as a swim coach. Arguably one of Littleton High School’s greatest athletes, Ervin is indisputably the institution’s greatest swim coach. In fact, it’s likely that he’s the best swim coach the state of Colorado has ever known.
“I didn’t know anything about (swimming),” Ervin once told Denver Post reporter Irv Moss. “I got some books and researched it. To me, coaching is coaching, no matter the sport. ”That philosophy, paired with his quick “research,” proved to be effective. All told, Ervin’s coaching resume at Littleton is an impressive read. Across football, baseball and boys and girls swimming, Ervin coached more than 100 teams. With the boys swimming program, he logged 40 seasons; for the girls, he coached for 31. When he retired after the 2014 campaign, he’d collected 12 state swimming championships —seven with his boys teams, five with the girls. His Lions were also the state runner-up five times. In total, he coached 40 individual state swimming champions. He was named the National High School Athletic Coaches Association’s 1988 National High School Swimming Coach of the Year. Also an English and physical education teacher at Littleton, Ervin’s coaching accomplishments are even more impressive considering his strict “no-cut” philosophy. Under “Stringy,” everyone swam.
Ervin has been enshrined in multiple halls of fame, including the Littleton High School Hall of Fame, the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame and the NHSACA Hall of Fame. In January, he was inducted into the Colorado Swimming Hall of Fame. As such, his induction into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame is indubitably fitting — perhaps more fitting than the unlikely job offer that ultimately led to his stellar career.
What lies behind you and what lies before you are tiny matters compared to what lies within you.