KANSAS CITY, Mo. — USC got to the NCAA Tournament round of eight before losing in five sets in the regional final, exceeding all expectations anyone had of the Trojans this season.
But it wasn’t enough for 74-year-old coach Mick Haley to keep his job.
Haley was told by USC his 17th season in Troy was his last.
“It seems obvious that they knew this from last spring,” Haley said. “I went to the athletic director last spring and asked for an extension. He said ‘I’ll get back to you’ and never got back to me.
“I took it from there that he wanted to see how we did this fall.”
Haley believes he is being discriminated against because of his age and he has hired an attorney, Chris Ludmer.
“He believes he was terminated not only because of his age, but in retaliation for him filing an age-discrimination complaint with USC, which he did before they fired him,” Ludmer said.
What’s more, Ludmer said USC canceled Haley’s current contract, which ran through June 2018.
Haley said he’s had a contentious relationship with USC senior associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator Donna Heinel.
Haley’s previous five-year contract expired as the Trojans finished 25-10. USC was ranked 14th in the last AVCA Division I Coaches Poll of the regular season, was ranked 11th in the last NCAA RPI and tied for second in the Pac-12 after being picked to finish sixth.
“I haven’t been getting along with my SWA for the last two or three years and I’ve felt like it’s been an adversarial situation for coaching,” said Haley, who won two national titles at Texas, took over as the USA Olympics coach in 2000, and then won NCAA championships at USC in 2002 and 2003.
“They told me they’re not firing me for cause,” he added before flying home Saturday afternoon.
Haley said he was upset that his current players would likely not hear the news directly from him.
“And I’ve got recruits I’ve got to tell, too. I have 11 kids committed to come to school the next two years,” Haley said. “I have to make sure they understand that this is not my doing. I promised them I would be there when they came and I fully intended to be there through 2020.”
Haley compiled a record of 435-119 with a winning percentage of .785 in his time at USC, which including 17 NCAA Tournament berths and six NCAA final fours.
In its statement released Saturday afternoon, USC had the following from athletic director Lynn Swann:
“We thank Mick for 17 outstanding years of success and accomplishment at USC and we wish him well. He is an icon in the world of volleyball. He brought our program many memorable moments, including getting to the brink of the NCAA Final Four this season, and he developed elite student-athletes.
“As we transition into the future of USC women’s volleyball, the outlook is strong. The talent level is high both on our returning roster and with our incoming signees. We expect a new coach to build off of the success of this past season.”
Haley said when he signed his last contract he asked for a 10-year deal.
“She said let’s do five and you can re-negotiate your salary and get more money for the next five,” Haley said.
There is no doubt that coaching at USC can be demanding.
“SC looks at it a little differently. They feel like their teams should win the championship every year in all sports. They approach it like that and I went there because of that and I like that kind of challenge.
“I went into the Pac-12 conference because all the coaches were really good, as you can see, and we beat each other up every night. It’s the best challenge you can get in collegiate sports in this country.”
Haley is from Angola, Indiana. He was a setter at Ball State and then coached at Kellogg Community College in Michigan before going to Texas from 1980-1996. He’s in the AVCA, Kellogg and Texas athletic halls of fame.
Haley and his wife, Carrie, had two children and Haley has two children from a previous marriage. Combined there are six grandchildren.
“We’ll pursue this (legally), but I’m moving on. I either have to find someone who would like to have me coach their program or I have to do something else wth my life. I’m not sitting around and I’m not going to get old,” Haley said with a laugh.
“I’ve got energy, as you can tell.”