USC women’s volleyball coach Mick Haley has been leading college teams to victory since the 1970s, but it was not until this season that his coaching career reached a milestone only a few have achieved in collegiate sports — 1,000 women’s volleyball victories.
Haley reached the millenium mark at the beginning of this season; however, the coach values the journey more than the milestone itself.
“Tallying 1,000 wins only means that you’ve been doing this for a long time with good players,” he said.
The esteemed women’s volleyball coach began his journey at Kellogg Community College, coaching from 1973 to 1979. With the exception of his rookie season, Haley has never coached a team that finished with a losing record. At Texas, Haley coached the Longhorns to national championships in 1981 and 1988.
One of Haley’s greatest honors came in 1997, when he was given the opportunity to represent his country and coach the U.S. women’s volleyball team in the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. Haley’s team finished fourth, losing in the bronze medal match to Brazil.
With Haley at the helm, USC has won two national championships, coming back-to-back in 2002 and 2003, finishing the season with an undefeated record of 35-0 that year. He’s made it his mission to transform good players into great ones by encouraging them to always perform to the best of their ability.
Current players have certainly noticed Haley’s efforts and enthusiasm.
“[Haley] pushes us and expects so much from us,” junior setter Kendall Bateman said.
Junior middle blocker Lauren Williams said it took her a long time to “appreciate [Haley’s] mixed style” of coaching.
“If you’re young, he pushes you,” Williams said. “If you’re old, he challenges you to be better.”
Not one for constantly yelling at young, underperforming players, Haley creates a learning environment by eschewing loud tirades in favor of conveying valuable messages, she said.
“[Haley] takes the time to explain and won’t yell at you if he sees you struggling,” Junior outside hitter Alex Jupiter said. “[He offers] a different perspective.”
But just because Haley exhibits greater patience than more strident coaches does not mean he has a more relaxed coaching style.
On the contrary, Haley possesses unwavering determination and pure resilience when it comes to motivating his players. He always strives to “max everything and everyone out,” Haley said.
Last summer, Haley took a trip down memory lane and reconnected with some of his former players. When he asked them what stuck out the most about his coaching style, he said his players remembered his signature words of wisdom: “Don’t be average. Be as good as you can be.”
After 1,000 wins, Haley still coaches to that adage. Encouraging individual improvement and team spirit, he has employed a unique mix of techniques and philosophies that make him a teacher as well as a coach.
Haley’s investment in each one of his players has certainly paid dividends on the court, as he’s produced some of the nation’s best players during his tenure, including several on the current squad.
Jupiter, who has broken numerous records already at USC, is only about 40 kills away from her own milestone — 1,000 kills. Williams has the second-highest hitting percentage in the nation, Bateman is third in the country and first in the conference in assists — and the list goes on.
This year, the Women of Troy expect nothing less than to make their first appearance in the Final Four since 2007 and make to another title run.
At 10-0, Haley’s team seems to have the perfect balance of veteran leadership and promising young talents. In fact, the incoming class is so exceptional that Haley feels comfortable giving all of the freshmen considerable playing time, starting five out of the six freshmen on the team.
Heading into conference play, Haley recognizes that great Pac-10 coaches and great teams surround him. Out of 330 women’s volleyball teams competing at the Division I level, four from the Pac-10 conference stand among the nation’s top 10.
Although you might never hear it from the ever-humble Haley himself, the best coach of that bunch won’t compete against the Trojans this season — he’s already leading them.