Michael Phelps and Bob Bowman

"He has been the one person that's got me where I am today," Michael Phelps recently said of his coach, Bob Bowman. (Nick Laham, Getty Images / May 13, 2012)

Urbanchek, now based in Fullerton, Cal., says Bowman deserves gold himself for how he has marshalled Phelps' development. It's no "piece of cake" coaching talented swimmers, even one Urbanchek considers the greatest of all time.

"Sometimes they want their own way, they don't always follow the script," Urbanchek said. "It's very demanding."

After the Beijing Games, Phelps and Bowman returned to Baltimore, as co-owners of the NBAC, to train for London — although one of them got a later start than the other on that particular quest.

Mentally and physically exhausted from his record-breaking eight-for-eight gold-medal sweep, Phelps went AWOL on Bowman for a time. He skipped out on practice in favor of the golf course or trips to Las Vegas with his friends. He eventually came around, though, and now the two are seemingly in sync once again as the Gamesare about to begin.

"Bob is really enjoying the moment," said Allison Schmitt, who trains with Bowman and Phelps and is headed to what could be a big Olympics herself.

All year, at Debbie Phelps' request, Bowman and Phelps have been posing for a photo at every venue along the way — their last trials in Omaha and their last practice at Meadowbrook are recent entries. And now, London.

While others will make judgments based on how many medals Phelps wins, or how he does against rival Ryan Lochte, Bowman considers whatever happens to be "gravy" atop what the swimmer — and by extension, the coach — has already accomplished.

"I don't think anything he could do or not do will change his legacy," Bowman said. "He's the greatest Olympian of all time today, he will be after this summer, I think."