USC fires Mick Haley, tells him his contract is not being renewed

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Mick Haley led the USC Trojans to the NCAA Tournament round of eight this season/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

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.”

14 COMMENTS

  1. This news saddens me. Mick is one of the smartest at the game that I know. He has endless energy. He not only improves players, he teaches life skills for further success in life. My daughter is a prime example. We will always appreciate Mick Haley and the opportunity and incredible memories he provided for our family.

    • One of his setters transferred before the 2009 season to minessota and took them to the final four. SC got knocked out early. The pattern of players leaving and having greater success elsewhere is self evident. For the record, Jim Elliot who was the interim coach at SC before Haley took it over won back to back national titles with Jim’s recruits. Haley hasn’t gotten it done with any of his while Jim takes Texas and has been in final four appearances and a National title under his belt. One final four appearance SC was knocked out by Cal Berkeley in 2008. Illinois in 2011 final four the list goes on. Haley has been on the radar screen by the administration for awhile. Getting a long term contract to me was only for financial security and not on the best interest of the program.

  2. I am completely shocked by this announcement. I’m not an insider, but I hope SC has a new coach in mind and on the line. Coach Haley will be very difficult to replace. Thank you Mick, and I wish you the very best with what comes next.

  3. Over the years, Mick was astounding in measuring/developing the talents of his players and developing an offense to work with those skills. He always impressed me as a rare talent in coaching, and with players unified in their appreciation of his mentoring. This is a huge mistake!

  4. As Kelly mentioned in an earlier post is when you have 13 players leave in 5 years that’s significant and it puts you on the radar screen. More importantly is the success those who transferred had at the Universities they Attended. We can’t ignore the facts any longer. We also don’t know if these women were mistreated, lied to, or has false promises made.

  5. In response to Kelly; that doesn’t say it all. How many of those players transferred because they knew they weren’t going to get playing time. Elite prep players come to a top college program believing they are good enough to be a starter. Sometimes that belief doesn’t work out. You can’t fault a coach for a player transferring because they weren’t good enough to earn a starting position.

  6. It is time for Haley to leave. His teams blew more final fours and regional finals during his stay. The two national titles were won in his first two years with the players Jared Eliot recruited, and should have been
    named the head coach at that time. Haley was great recruiting international talent which he kinda ignored since Samantha Bricio. This year’s team had no freshmen on the front line who contributed. Way too many setters, and defensive specialists on the roster. Some of the transfers were highly rated prospects who were over rated and left. His handling of the match vs. Florida was the last straw. The big question is the new hire not promoting any assts. who need to go, also. Met Haley many times who was cordial and responsive to my greeting and questions. One suggestion to AD Swann, make Haley the head coach of the Men team which needs lots of help, and send current coach ( former ‘ruin ) packing.

  7. Sounds to me like some of these “fans” want to pretend that the Glory days of PAC 10-12 volleyball have disappeared and it’s Coach Haley’s fault. In the past 12 years, two titles vs 9 for the B1G, with one to Texas. Where do you think the recruits are going? The B1G had eight teams on the tourney this year, five of whom made the sweet 16. USC was within a whisker of the final four, but you need need to go in a different direction? Arrogance at its finest. Hopefully, you’ll go full Tennessee football in your next ten years.

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