A combination of fresh and familiar faces have come in to round out the Bruins' new-look staff.
UCLA gymnastics coach Janelle McDonald, who joined the program back in May, has locked down the staff around her in Westwood for the 2023 season. Former volunteer assistant coach BJ Das has been promoted to a full-time assistant, with Kyle Grable joining her as the Bruins' second assistant and Autumn Grable starting as a volunteer assistant coach.
Das has been with UCLA since 2020, while the Grables were co-head coaches at the Jaycie Phelps Athletic Center in Indianapolis for the past five years.
“In the search for developing a staff that will build the next chapter of UCLA Gymnastics, I wanted to bring on coaches who see our athletes as people first and will celebrate each person’s character and individuality,” McDonald said in a statement released by the team. “Building a culture full of integrity, hard work, inclusivity and empathy for our student-athletes needed to come second nature to the coaches on this staff. Additionally, I wanted coaches that have the technical knowledge to match the skill level and talent of the student-athletes on our team. With this staff, I am more confident than ever that together with our student-athletes we can create something really special in this next chapter of UCLA Gymnastics.”
Das has worked as a lead choreographer for the Bruins, and she has been credited for putting together Nia Dennis’ viral routines in 2020 and 2021. Margzetta Frazier also went viral in 2021 for acing one of Das' routines, while Chae Campbell and Pauline Tratz each picked up wins at the Pac-12 championships that season thanks to her choreography.
In 2020 – Das' first season in Westwood – UCLA ranked No. 1 in the nation on floor. The year before, Das was a volunteer assistant at Utah and led the Red Rocks to a top-five national ranking on floor.
Das has performed live and in music videos with Beyonce, P!nk, Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, and she was the assistant choreographer for Simone Biles' Gold Over America Tour in 2021.
The Grables, unlike Das, don't have much experience in the Pac-12, but they do bring elite experience to Westwood from the Midwest.
Kyle specialized coaching uneven bars at JPAC, while Autumn primarily coached balance beam and floor exercise. The two combined to coach a handful of Level 10 national champions in the all-around, beam and bars.
Both Gables were at Gym-Nation up through 2017, with Kyle starting there in 2007 and Autumn staring in 2011.
With the new assistants coming in, Kristina Comforte and Dom Palange have officially been replaced on the staff. Das is the only holdover from coach Chris Waller's staff this past season.
Waller and his staff were unable to lead UCLA to the NCAA championships in any of their three seasons, so McDonald's new crew could get the Bruins back to the finals for the first time since Valorie Kondos Field left in 2019.
PHOTO COURTESY OF UCLA ATHLETICS