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From There to Here: Head Shots to Head Coach

Water polo coach David Andriole’s many talents led him from the pool to Hollywood and back

Andriole has maintained ties to water polo throughout his life. He co-founded and played for a club team in Los Angeles and, later, coached local youth. MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY PHOTO

A longtime actor decides he has grown weary of Hollywood’s traps and trappings and retires to spend life by the pool. That’s how the narrative typically ends. But David Andriole’s story isn’t over, and the pool in question isn’t a sun-drenched oasis on the West Coast. Instead, this one rests under fluorescent lights and steel beams, and the walls around it keep frigid winters at bay.

There is nowhere else he would rather be.

Andriole, a Yale University water polo player and swimmer-turned lawyer-turned actor, found his way back to the pool last year when he accepted an interim position coaching the Massachusetts Institute of Technology water polo team. Now, the interim tag is gone, and after more than two decades on screen, Andriole has found contentment teaching the game he loves to young men he admires. His wife, Mimi, tells him she has never seen him happier.

Dipping his toe in the water

Andriole’s older brother, Charlie, who played at Villanova University, introduced him to water polo when Andriole was in middle school. Andriole thrived through high school in Connecticut and went on to play for Yale. There, he encountered George Gross, a Yale alumnus and two-time member of Canada’s Olympic team. Under Gross’ mentorship, Andriole came to truly appreciate the game – a passion that would persist even as he followed his calling elsewhere. 

The indirect route

After Andriole graduated in 1986, he attended law school at Northwestern University. While in Chicago, he played his sport on a club team and began studying acting.

After law school, he considered professional water polo (teams overseas had expressed interest) but accepted an offer from San Diego law firm Sheppard Mullin. Still, the sport he loved and dreams of a life on screen tugged at him. So a year after joining the firm, he left for Los Angeles, a city filled with only strangers and promise. “I didn’t want regret,” he said. “It was something I really felt I needed to do.”

Places, please!

Andriole made his first call to the American Film Institute: Do student filmmakers need volunteers for their productions? he asked. Instantly, he had a forum to hone his craft. Along the way, he never abandoned water polo and helped start a club team. He built a career through commercials, voice-overs and small roles in feature films and  television, including screen time on “The West Wing,” “24” and “CSI.”

A divorce and the loss of his best friend to cancer – former Yale swimmer Jon Sharp – led Andriole to reconsider his path. Shaken by Sharp’s death and frustrated by the rigmarole of the entertainment industry, Andriole returned to the East Coast to be closer to family.

Back to school

Soon after moving east, a friend alerted Andriole to a surprise coaching vacancy at MIT. Andriole accepted an offer to take the reins at MIT only two days before the team ventured to a tournament at Princeton University to start the 2014 season.

The Engineers finished 16-17, and Andriole was offered the job on a permanent basis. He accepted. “The reason I am back at MIT is because of the kids,” he says. “They are extraordinary, extraordinary individuals.”

His old career still makes an occasional appearance. Late in a close game against Santa Clara University, Andriole sensed his team growing tense. He called timeout and relayed a story from the set of “Barb Wire” – a poorly reviewed Pamela Anderson film  – that left his team chuckling. They swam away relaxed and held on to win by two goals.

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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