Hall of Fame material

Remembering basketball coach Mike Haley

By Marc Katz

 

There is no Roosevelt High School anymore, but Mike Haley won there.

There is no Roth High School anymore, but Haley won there, too.

There is a Dunbar High School, but no one won there like Haley did.

These are the things you should remember about Mike Haley.

There isn’t anything else to do now but remember. I feel a little ashamed his illness—and he had plenty, starting with a low-functioning heart—escaped my knowledge for so long.

Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise. I covered high school basketball games he coached back in the 1970s, and after that, observed from a short distance as I went on to cover other things.

Certainly I knew of him. He won a state basketball championship in 1961, the star of Portsmouth’s team.

He went on to play at Ohio University, where he, Don Hilt, Joe Barry, Paul Storey, and all the others stunned the college basketball world by beating Louisville 71-69 and then Kentucky 85-69 to make the Elite Eight in 1964, the only Mid-American team to do so.

That was when there was a smaller bracket and you had to win your conference to get in the NCAA.

After knocking off the two giants in the first two rounds, OU lost to a Cazzie Russell-led Michigan team, 69-57. The next year, in a first-round game, OU lost to Dayton, 66-65.

This summer, the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame will be inducting that first OU team into its honor role of greats.

Haley obviously won’t be there with his friends and teammates, but they’ll make sure he’s remembered. While others with lesser records have made it into this Hall of Fame and into the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, Haley has been left behind.

Bobby Porter, a successful coach himself in Layton, Utah, played on the Roth team that lost coach Elijah Chatman to a heart ailment just before the 1973 season began. Porter was one of those players who went with his teammates to entice Haley to leave Roosevelt—where he had just signed a coaching contract—to return to Roth, where he had been a Chatman assistant.

Haley couldn’t break his contract then, and later hired Porter as an assistant. Porter went on to become head coach at Belmont before going to Utah.

“He was a great man,” Porter says of Haley. “He always looked out for his players. I know people said he recruited, but he didn’t have to recruit. Who would you want to play for?

“He helped Keith Byars play basketball [at Roth] and got Mark Baker [Dunbar] through the projects. Both of them spoke at Coach Haley’s funeral.

“Coach Haley was the Muhammad Ali of the West Side. He brought us all together. He won championships at all three schools,” Porter says.

Haley also always pressed from game’s start to end, resulting in some lopsided scores a few coaches didn’t like.

There was an embarrassing moment following a District game at UD Arena where Alter was receiving its runner-up awards and some Dunbar players took it upon themselves to start a dunk line at one end of the court.

Porter says he was an assistant for Dunbar then, and he and Haley immediately stopped the shenanigans. Haley, though, took the abuse for the bad manners.

Though he was angry at the time, all these years later retired Alter coach and Hall of Famer Joe Petrocelli has to be reminded of that incident.

What he remembers better from before another big game is visiting The Dayton Daily News building for a picture with Haley nose-to-nose, like one of those prizefight photos.

“It was difficult to get the picture,” Petrocelli says. “Mike and I were laughing so hard.”

Those were classic games at any level. Petrocelli remembers losing a 106-102 double overtime game at the Arena and leaving the game feeling “like I’d won.”

Then, in 1992, came the surprise Haley announcement. He was leaving Dayton for home, to become dean of boys at his old Portsmouth High School. His coaching record at Roosevelt, Roth, and Dunbar over 18 seasons was 329-82. He won 11 City League championships, eight districts, and four states (with a runner-up). He also coached three more years at Portsmouth.

He was spared from being in town when his son, Mike Haley II, was arrested for a heinous crime and sent to prison.

A decade ago, Mike Haley returned to Dayton and began hanging out at the Englewood YMCA. Kids gravitated to him, and he was hired to run the gym after school.

He was on duty recently, the day before he died.

Say what you will about Mike Haley, the player and coach. He put up the numbers and was a guide for those who would listen to his message. Porter points out he sent a lot of kids to college.

There are two basketball Halls of Fame in Ohio, where Haley belongs but isn’t enshrined: the older Ohio High School Coaches Hall of Fame and the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame.

Josh Haynes, executive director of the Kleptz Y, were Haley worked, says the kids who played there had tremendous respect for him, and he made it a safe environment for them to use. He even coached a bit if prodded.

“It was a gift he had,” Haynes says.

I think that’s Hall of Fame material.

 

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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