Brian Luke

You’d be hard pressed to find a more accomplished and decorated swimming and diving coach in Minnesota than Brian Luke.

The 1975 alumnus has been the Stillwater High School girls’ and boys’ head coach the past 44 years. He took over before that school became synonymous with swimming and diving excellence, and has built it into a perennial power.

He taught junior high science for 35 years before retiring 10 years ago, and continues to coach.

The late Don Palm recruited Brian from Hopkins Lindbergh High School where he swam primarily the butterfly and individual medley. He became an important part of the SMSC Swim Machine, which hosted the national NAIA meet twice during his career, in 1972 and 75.

In fact, it was swimming which was the reason he met his wife, Jane, an SMSU alumna. She had a work-study job in Palm’s office and served as his secretary for four years. She was instrumental in coordinating the home swim meets at SMSC.

Thecampus pool was state-of-the-art in 1975, and Palm’s ability to recruit brought in many talented swimmers and divers who helped the Mustangs earn conference titles during Brian’s sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

Brian has been a fixture at Stillwater since graduating from SMSU. His girls’ teams have won 11 state, 19 section and 26 conference titles. His boys’ teams have won 15 section and 21 conference championships. Stillwater swimmers and divers have earned All-State honors 360 times, and All-American honors 180 times. Team members have been named Academic All-American 113 times.

Individually, he’s been Minnesota State High School Coach of the Year five times, and is in the High School Swim Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He’ll be inducted into the Minnesota State Coaches Association Hall of Fame the weekend of Homecoming.

He believes in classroom excellence for his athletes so much that he’s changed the name of his program to Stillwater Swimming, Diving and Education. “When I step on the deck of a practice there are many objectives for the day, the week, the season. The overall objective is to get better and try to be as successful as possible. But there is so much more going on than that — there are the intangibles we emphasize like self-discipline, team-discipline, punctuality, empathy, academics, maturity, honesty and respect.”

Brian has been able to stay in the sport so long, he feels, because of the support of his wife Jane, who announces at all the meets and is the liaison between the program and the team members’ parents. She also takes the lead with the youth swim club activities. “A lot of young coaches get started and in six or eight years they’re not in it anymore. I’m lucky my wife is supportive. She has kept involved.  So, therefore, I haven’t disappeared into the mist for former coaches.”

He names Palm and Science Professor Dr. Ed Carberry as major influences during his time at SMSU.

Brian and  Jane, are the parents of four children: Melanie, Taylor, Maggie and Marnie. Brian enjoyed coaching all of them as members the Stillwater High School swimming and diving team.  His father, the late Elmer Luke, was a legendary swimming and diving coach at Hopkins High School.

He has warm memories of his time at SMSU, and is grateful to have been part of such a dominating program.