Redondo Union head basketball coach gets the axe
Administrators at Redondo Union High School will be searching for someone new to lead its boys basketball program after longtime varsity head coach Tom Maier was fired Thursday.
Despite a 197-111 record in 11 years as head coach of the Sea Hawks, Maier was unexpectedly let go after what he described as a frustrating season that included disciplinary problems with three players and a small group of parents who wanted him fired since the beginning of the season.
“I’m not angry but very disappointed, particularly in the procedure in which the firing was done,” Maier said. “I have nothing to be ashamed of.”
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The firing leaves a second vacancy of a varsity head coaching position at the school. In December, head football coach Gene Simon “resigned” after 16 years at the helm.
“We both got fired without dignity,” Maier exclaimed in a phone interview Friday.
In response to Maier’s firing, Redondo Union High School principal Dr. Nicole Wesley emailed a statement similar to the one issued after Simon stepped down.
“We thank Coach Maier for his 11 years of service to the basketball program at Redondo Union High School,” Wesley stated. “After careful consideration, we have determined that it is in the school’s best interest to seek new leadership for the basketball program and we will begin an extensive search process in April.”
Maier said he approached Athletic Director Andy Saltsman during the season regarding the three players and two fathers who were verbally abusive to Redondo coaches and players as well as opponents.
Maier said one player used expletives directed at the coaching staff during a game before taking swings at the head coach. Another player was said to have removed his jersey per his father’s instruction and refused to re-enter the game. Maier said a third player argued with the coaching staff about removing jewelry which is restricted by the CIF.
The fathers were given a “gag order” by Wesley that Maier said had little impact.
“After a game at Peninsula, their principal asked me who the parent was making the negative and derogatory comments,” Maier said. “It took someone from another school to discuss the matter with me.”
Maier said he received no warning of the firing and throughout the season no meeting with the coach and parents was arranged by the administration. He added that administrators felt he wasn’t mentoring and was bullying the players.
“They told me it wasn’t about playing time (for some players), but it was,” Maier said. “They gave me no help with the situation. I’ve become one of many coaches at the high school level victimized by parents and the administrators who succumb to them.”
Justin McCurdy played guard for Redondo from 2005-08 and credits Maier’s tutelage for shaping his adult life. A junior at USC, McCurdy is majoring in Sports Management and runs the Pro Skills Basketball Camp in Manhattan Beach.
“Coach Maier set the tone for the discipline in my life,” McCurdy said. “He held me accountable for my actions and going through adversity helped me later in life. He is a tough love coach who makes you stronger in the real world.
McCurdy recalls a time when he went to Maier’s office to confront him about the lack of playing time.
“When you’re 15, 16 or 17, there are times when you’re going to be upset with your coach,” McCurdy said. “But even when I didn’t like him, I always respected him. He treated his best players the same as the worst players. The biggest message he conveyed was that when you’re wearing a Redondo uniform, you’re representing something that is bigger than yourself.”
After high school, McCurdy played a season at Santa Monica College. It was during that time when he began to realize what Maier’s teaching methods were all about.
“When I played at Santa Monica, some other players had trouble with simple concepts that were second nature to me,” McCurdy said. “Things like showing up on time, respecting the game and self discipline were instilled in me by Maier. I began to appreciate what he did for me. He coached his players to be the best basketball players they could be but, even more so, he wanted them to become successful men in the real world.”
McCurdy said he began the Pro Skills Basketball Camp three years ago with 23 kids. Last year he had over 100.
“The camp would not be possible without the help of Maier,” McCurdy admitted. “He has taught me so much about the ins and outs of running a successful camp. I wish a guy that has mentored so many kids could have walked away from coaching on his own terms.”
Maier, who holds a master’s degree from USC in physical education, will remain teaching at Redondo Union. He will continue running basketball camps, something he has done throughout Southern California for over 35 years. He serves as camp director for Peninsula Sports Camps, an organization founded in 1972 that has conducted basketball, soccer and baseball camps for over 50,000 youngsters.
Despite a 10-17 record this past season Maier was pleased with his team’s performance. The Sea Hawks played a number of ranked teams, many times losing by a close margin.
“I’m proud of the team and the way it played and never gave up despite a season of turmoil,” Maier stated.
Maier said that if the right situation arose, he would consider coaching at the varsity level again. As of now, he leaves a 41-year coaching career with a 647-344 record that included a three year stint at Tabor Academy in Marion, Mass., 27 years at Chadwick and 11 at Redondo.
At Redondo, Maier won CIF titles as an assistant with Jim Neilsen in 2001 and as the Sea Hawk’s head coach in 2002. Redondo reached the CIF and Regional finals in 2007 amassing a 28-6 record a ranking of No. 12 in the state
Maier helped the continued growth of the Redondo Pacific Shores Tournament that includes many top-ranked teams. This past season’s tournament included 16 teams and all but one reached the post season in the 2010-11 campaign. Six of the teams advanced to either the CIF Southern Section or LA City divisional finals the previous season with three earning CIF titles.
The Sea Hawk Classic held during winter break has grown to include 48 teams on three levels.
“We had no Booster Club but my basketball fundraising will be hard to duplicate,” Maier said. “I’ve done a lot for the basketball program and the school.”