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Thursday, April 06, 2017

Farewell, Coach Mike Haley

Mike Haley, one of the most accomplished high school basketball coaches in Ohio history, passed away last weekend at the age of 73. To say that Coach Haley is underrated is an understatement; even the obituary published in the local Dayton newspaper--the newspaper of record in the city where he was a dominant coaching figure for two decades--shortchanged him one of his championships! To set the record straight, let it be noted that Coach Haley won four Ohio high school basketball titles: his 1976 Roth team went 22-5 en route to capturing the AA title, his 1981 Roth team went 26-1 en route to capturing the AAA title, his 1982 Roth team went 24-4 en route to capturing the AA title and his 1987 Dunbar team went 24-4 en route to capturing the AAA title. Coach Haley also led Dunbar to the 1984 AAA Championship Game before losing to Canton McKinley.

It is outrageous that a four-time state championship coach has not been inducted into the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame or the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame. High school coaching statistics are difficult to track down but I doubt that there are many four-time championship coaches who are not in the Ohio High School Basketball Hall of Fame and I suspect that there are many coaches in that Hall who failed to win four titles.

Haley's teams specialized in pressure defense and fast-break offense. Many of the players who he mentored eventually played collegiate ball and at least one of them--Mark Baker--made it to the NBA.

Before he became a top notch coach, Haley was an outstanding high school and collegiate player in his own right. He starred at Portsmouth (Ohio) High School in the late 1950s/early 1960s before becoming a key player for some excellent Ohio University teams. In 1963-64, Ohio University went 21-6 and captured the Mid-American Conference Championship with a 10-2 mark. Haley was the fourth leading scorer (13.0 ppg) and second leading rebounder (8.6 rpg) for the 1964 squad.

In those days, only the conference champion from the MAC made it to the NCAA Tournament. Ohio University became the first MAC team to advance to the Elite Eight after beating Louisville 71-69 in overtime and defeating the fourth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats 85-69. The second-ranked Michigan Wolverines, led by future NBA All-Star Cazzie Russell's game-high 25 points, knocked off Ohio University 69-57. Haley had a team-high 17 points plus five rebounds versus Louisville, 15 points and seven rebounds versus Kentucky and 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds versus Michigan.

Ohio University went 19-7 in 1964-65, winning the MAC title with an 11-1 record. The University of Dayton edged the Bobcats 66-65 in the NCAA Tournament. Haley was the second leading scorer (16.6 ppg) and third leading rebounder (9.0 rpg) for the 1965 team.

The 1963-64 and 1964-65 Ohio University basketball teams were inducted in the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017. Haley joined several of his teammates in Athens, Ohio in 2014 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their Elite Eight run.

Haley's resume as a player and a coach should have easily earned him induction into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame, whose stated mission is to honor "the achievements of both male and female basketball players in high school, college, and professional basketball, successful coaches on all levels, and those who have impacted the game along the way."

Instead of being publicly honored and appreciated for his contributions, Coach Haley spent the last years of his life in obscurity working as an open gym supervisor at a local YMCA in the Dayton, Ohio area. That is where I first met him. He was a revered and respected figure by YMCA members young and old and it was obvious that he enjoyed interacting with a wide range of people.

Coach Haley never bragged about his accomplishments but if you asked him about the old days he was an engaging story teller. I loved talking to him about the players he encountered during his playing/coaching career, as well as about current NBA players. Sometimes I helped him out at the scorer's table during the YMCA basketball league (during the games when I was not playing) and we would talk about various players' tendencies and the complete absence of any strategy in the YMCA league (we both nearly lost our minds when a team that was leading in the final minutes in a league with no shot clock would take a shot as opposed to forcing the other team to foul). We were two basketball lifers, a generation apart, enjoying talking about all aspects of the game: rec league, high school, college, pro.

Coach Haley loved being around basketball games and players, so he was happy working at the YMCA. The only lament that Coach Haley ever expressed was his puzzlement about not being inducted in the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Once, he even asked me if I knew how the process worked or if there was anything that I could do to help; I told him honestly that I mostly covered professional basketball and thus I did not know the inner workings of high school sports but I said that I would see what I could find out. I did some research at that time and the only thing that I could determine was perhaps he was no onger eligible because he was not a current member of the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association--which is ridiculous: (1) He should have been inducted a long time ago when he was a member and (2) a retired coach who has been unjustly overlooked should not be barred from consideration just because of such a minor technicality.

A few years ago, I lost touch with Coach Haley after I moved to the other side of town and stopped going to that YMCA while I pursued my law degree. I miss those nearly nightly conversations with Coach Haley at the YMCA and I regret that I never figured out a way to better publicize his career so that he would receive the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame induction he richly deserves. Maybe he will receive the honor posthumously, so at least his family can know that his accomplishments have been belatedly recognized.

1987 Dunbar Ohio State Championship Team (Coach Haley is the first person on the left in the second row)

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:38 PM

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2 Comments:

At Friday, April 07, 2017 12:00:00 PM, Blogger Kyle Falls said...

Sorry for your lost David.

 
At Saturday, April 08, 2017 7:18:00 AM, Anonymous Zaahir said...

Thank you for honoring another unsung hero of basketball history.
He may have had more of a local impact but I am sure that the people whom he coached/guided are not concerned with such trivialities as that.

 

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