What do NBA greats Shaquille O’Neal and “Pistol” Pete Maravich have in common with the CNMI’s very down Jon Sakovich?
Last week, the former Olympian and CNMI Sports Hall of Famer was named an associate coach of the Louisiana State University swimming team and so like the Big Diesel and the all-time NCAA career scoring leader, Sakovich is now an LSU Tiger.
“I am very excited for this opportunity to coach at LSU and work with some of the best student-athletes in the U.S. LSU has a great history in NCAA athletics and in the classroom and I am honored to continue these traditions,” said Sakovich in an email to Saipan Tribune.
Sakovich, the son of fellow CNMI Sports Hall of Famer and Saipan Swim Club co-founders Bill and Jean, joined LSU swimming team head coach Rick Bishop’s first staff at LSU for the 2021-22 season. He will serve as an associate head coach alongside Steve Mellor and comes to LSU after serving as an assistant swim coach at Lakeside Aquatic Club in Flower Mound, Texas.
“I look forward to working with the head coach and the rest of the staff on the shared vision and goals of a successful program geared toward developing excellent student athletes and winning championships,” he said.
His parents, meanwhile, couldn’t be prouder of their first-born, who first learned to swim in the small hotel pools of Saipan before moving on to Guam in high school, where he represented the U.S. territory in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
“He has been trying to get into college coaching for a few years now. That was one reason he was leaving Bolles School. We feel proud, he’s gone further than either Jean or I. We are still coaching a club here in Hilo, and I will also coach high school if we have it this semester. We are happy for Jon and I guess will have to follow LSU now, not only Florida (Jon’s alma mater) and UCLA (Bill’s alma mater)!” said Bill in an email to Saipan Tribune.
According to Jon Sakovich’s bio at the LSU website, before arriving at Lakeside, Sakovich spent 19 seasons at the Bolles School, similarly to Bishop, who spent four years at the private college preparatory day and boarding school.
Sakovich began his stint in Jacksonville as a senior assistant swim coach. During his tenure, he was awarded with several promotions that led to him being named the head swim coach and aquatics director in February of 2015.
Throughout his career, Sakovich has coached 10 USA Olympic Trial qualifiers and over 45 USA Swimming National qualifiers, both at the senior and junior level. He was named the 2016-17 Coach of the Year by the National Federation of High School Coaches.
In 1997, Sakovich earned his bachelor’s of science in recreational sciences at the University of Florida while he began his career in coaching for the Clearwater Aquatic team. He recently received his master’s degree in education, sport coaching and pedagogy in 2019 at the University of Ohio at Athens.
Before becoming an Olympian, Sakovich donned the colors of the CNMI in various regional and international competitions, such as the Micronesian Games, South Pacific Games, Pan Pacific Games, and FINA World Championships. With his impressive credentials, he earned a spot on the University of Florida swim team. At UF, he got All-American honors and national titles both in the pool and open water races. While swimming in collegiate ranks, Sakovich also brought home a bronze medal for Team USA from the 1995 Pan American Games and represented the U.S. in the 1996 Pan Pacific Championships.