Former Swimming Coach George Haines Passes Away

May 2, 2006

George Haines, one of the top coaches in the history of the sport of swimming, passed away on Monday. He coached the UCLA men's team for four years, from 1974-75 through 1977-78, coaching Olympian Brian Goodell.

During his four years as head coach, the Bruins finished in the Top Six at the NCAA championships, placing third in 1975, third in 1976, sixth in 1977 and fourth in 1978. They also finished second in the Pac-8/Pac-10 in all four of his years.

Below is a story about coach Haines from Tuesday's Washington Post.

George F. Haines, 82, a revered American swimming coach whose championship high school and club teams became springboards for Olympic talent, died May 1 at the SunBridge Brittany nursing facility in Carmichael, Calif. He had complications from a stroke four years ago.

Starting with the 1960 Games in Rome, Mr. Haines coached swimmers in seven Olympics. He was head coach three times, including once for the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow, which the United States boycotted. At the 1978 World Swimming Championships in West Berlin, he was head coach of the U.S. team that captured many medals.

An effective motivator, Mr. Haines helped propel the athletic careers of such Olympians as Don Schollander, Donna de Varona, Chris von Saltza, Steve Clark, Claudia Kolb and Mark Spitz. While regarded for his skills at improving individual swimmers, he said he was chiefly concerned with fostering a team atmosphere.

This led to some personality conflicts with the superstar Spitz, but swimmer and coach were friendly in subsequent years.

'We talked about team all the time,' Mr. Haines once told a reporter. 'When we went to a meet, and I did this as an Olympic coach, too, I made every kid on the team aware of the first event. That first event is the most important event in the meet.

'The team would be there to encourage those guys in the first event. And if they swam really well, then I could turn around to the others and say, 'See that? Man, those guys swam good. And if they can swim like that, look how ready you are.' And it worked.'

To break intense training sessions, he was known for displaying soft-shoe shuffle at poolside or balancing and flipping a chair on the tip of his shoe. He also poked fun at his reputation for coaching gold medalists.'After coaching the 1968 Olympic team, I was feeling good and everyone was congratulating me,' Mr. Haines once said. He then added that his wife, June, 'told one writer, 'For crying out loud, I could have coached that team. All I would have needed was the key to the pool.' '

George Frederick Haines was born in Huntington, Ind., on March 9, 1924. He said he developed an early competitiveness from his parents. His 6-foot-7 father played basketball until he was 44, and his mother, he once said, 'could bend you over a chair and whap you with the best of 'em.'His parents placed such demands on him that if he lost a game on his eighth-grade basketball team, 'Dad would have to go looking for me. I'd walk six or eight blocks before I could stop crying,' he once told the Los Angeles Times.

His solution was to stop losing.

Swimming became his standout sport, and he was part of two YMCA championship teams in the mid-1930s.

After Coast Guard service as a poolside survival training specialist in San Francisco, Mr. Haines enrolled at San Jose State University, where he became conference champion in the 50-meter freestyle. After graduating in 1950, he began a 24-year career teaching physical education and coaching at Santa Clara High School.

He also started the Santa Clara Swim Club, initially with about 10 swimmers and based at the high school. Swimnews magazine features editor Cecil Colwin called Mr. Haines 'a maestro in organizing the quality of a workout,' noting that the coach was among the first to insist on two daily practices.

He also instigated new training formations to maximize space in a pool and became resourceful as needed. Because no 50-meter pool was available to him for many years at the club, he took swimmers to train at a local reservoir.

Within a matter of years, the club came to dominate the amateur championships and become a major stop on the amateur swimming-meet circuit. It went on to produce more Olympic champions than any other club, according to the International Swimming Hall of Fame that inducted Mr. Haines in 1974.

He spent four years coaching the men's swim team at the University of California, Los Angeles in the 1970s. He retired in 1988 after six years as head coach of the Stanford University women's swim team.In later years, he coached senior softball and led a team to the Senior Softball World Series in West Palm Beach, Fla.

In addition to his wife of 60 years, June Carter Haines of Roseville, Calif., survivors include five children, Kerry Derr of Boise, Idaho, Janice Canfield of Glendale, Calif., Jody Baer of Orangevale, Calif., Paula Baldwin of Granite Bay, Calif., and G. Kyle Haines of Klamath Falls, Ore.; three brothers; a sister; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Now on Pac-12 Network
11:00 AM PT

Airing on:

  • Pac-12 Network
Get Pac-12 Networks
Pac-12 Networks Channel Finder