Haines of Stanford : He Brings Together Winning Swimmers

Times Staff Writer

The rented van slows to a stop in the nearly deserted parking lot behind the swim stadium, and the swimmers climb out. True to form, they're wearing sweat suits and high-topped sneakers, and are carrying huge equipment bags.

It will be a couple of hours before the meet begins, so even though a couple of the swimmers are recognizable as Olympians, there is no one to greet them as they file into the building, following the smell of chlorine and the handwritten signs pointing the way to the participants' entrance.

They have been this route hundreds of times all across this country and, many of them all around the world.

The coach locks the van and shouts some last-minute instructions. He'll see them in a few minutes on the pool deck.

He, too, has been this route, thousands upon thousands of times in all corners of the world. He was doing this before his swimmers were born.

George Haines doesn't look it, but he's 63 years old. He's been coaching swimming for 37 years.

He started at Santa Clara, where he coached the high school team and also made famous the swim club, which he led to a string of consecutive national victories only recently broken by Mission Viejo.

Don Schollander and Mark Spitz were among his successes at Santa Clara. And Brian Job and Joe Bottom and Mike Bottom . . .

So is it surprising that the swimmers he brought to this meet recently at the East Los Angeles Swim Stadium are all young women, the Stanford team that was about to swim away with the first Pac-10 women's title?

Not at all.

Also counted among the 50 Olympians he has coached are Donna de Varona and Karen Moe Thornton, who is now the Cal women's coach and competed against him in that meet the first weekend in March.

Of the 43 AAU national championships that the Santa Clara team won, 37 were women's titles.

He had been at Santa Clara for 24 years and had been on the coaching staff for four straight Olympiads when J.D. Morgan, then the athletic director at UCLA, talked him into becoming the Bruins' coach in 1974.

That was the men's team. But four years later, he was back coaching a club, girls and boys.

In 1980, he was the first Olympic coach to be given charge of both the men's and women's teams, but that was the year that the United States boycotted the Games in Moscow.

Then in 1981, he took over the women's team at Stanford.

Having coached both men and women for all these years, Haines concludes: "Coaching is coaching. The men aren't any more dedicated than the women, but the women aren't any more dedicated than the men. . . . You just treat them all the same. Be firm but be fair. Let them know where they stand."

They are all looking for the same thing--success. And Haines knows about that.

Haines began coaching the Stanford women in time for the first year of NCAA competition. His team was second in 1981-'82 and won the national title the next year.

The Stanford women were second in 1984, third in '85 and '86.

Again this year, the Stanford women can expect strong competition from the University of Texas and the University of Florida, but the Cardinal women are long and strong, too.

With seven returning All-Americans, including Olympians Susan Rapp and Jenna Johnson, and with a freshman class that Haines has called "the best since the 1982-83 season when we won the NCAA title," Stanford has a shot at another title.

Michelle Griglione, a versatile freshman who won the 200-yard individual medley, the 400-yard individual medley and was fifth in the 200-yard butterfly at the Pac-10 meet, is a swimmer Haines describes as having "the best potential since Tracy Caulkins."

She explained why she chose to swim at Stanford: "You look for a school that combines good academics and good athletics. Stanford does that. Good athletics has to mean that you have a good coach. You wouldn't go to a school that didn't have a really good coach.

"I knew about (Haines') reputation, but I also talked to the girls to see what they thought. Like Jenna and Susan Rapp. They have so much respect for him.

"And he's easy to work with. He'll yell and stuff, but he's really like a father or a grandfather to all of us."

Johnson, who also had her pick of colleges, chose Stanford for the academics and because it was close to her original home of Santa Rosa, but also because of the coach.

"He's a good coach, of course," she said. "He also is very understanding about the pressure of school and everything else. There's a good atmosphere on our team. There's a lot of competition in practice--which is good--but there are no cliques, no problems.

"Coach Haines is like a father to us, and we're like a family. I think that will help us in the NCAAs."

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