Bailey steps down as girls' water polo coach at Corona del Mar

In a move that has stunned much of the Orange County aquatics community, Corona del Mar High girls' water polo coach Sam Bailey resigned Wednesday to take the vacant boys' and girls' water polo head coaching positions at Beckman.

Bailey's resignation comes just more than a month after he guided CdM to its first CIF Southern Section Division 1 title in girls' water polo. Bailey said Wednesday night that he also has accepted a social sciences teaching position at Beckman, which was the main reason for his decision.

CdM Athletic Director Don Grable said Corona del Mar High did not have a teaching position open for Bailey, who did his student-teaching at CdM and has a teaching credential from National University.

"It was, without a doubt, one of the most difficult decisions I've ever had to make in my life," Bailey said. "The commitment that the girls made to each other, and to our program, is second to none. We've accomplished amazing, outstanding things together. I remain confident that the program will continue to thrive and excel.

"Four years ago, I made a commitment to myself and the people closest to me that I was going to become a teacher. Unfortunately, nothing's opened up [at CdM]. I'm definitely going to miss the relationships ... but I need to think about my future."

Bailey, a UCLA graduate and former assistant with the Bruins, was hired in June of 2010 following the resignation of Aaron Chaney. It was his second stint at CdM, as he was Chaney's assistant coach from 2003-05 and also CdM boys' water polo head coach in 2004.

He had a record of 76-15 in his three seasons as girls' head coach. The Sea Kings made the CIF semifinals in 2011 and the finals in 2012. They were up and down this past season but put it together at the end, overcoming deficits to Los Alamitos in the Division 1 quarterfinals and Foothill in the semifinals. In the title match, they dethroned Back Bay rival Newport Harbor, 6-5.

Under Bailey, CdM has maintained its reputation as one of the top programs in the country. The CdM girls have made at least the playoff semifinals for 14 straight years. He was Division 1 Coach of the Year this season and received the Doc Hunkler Distinguished Women's Coaching Award from USA Water Polo.

Grable said Bailey turned in his resignation letter earlier Wednesday. Grable sent an email to CdM parents Wednesday afternoon, notifying them of the resignation.

Bailey spoke to the CdM players in the team room, prior to the Sea Kings' swim meet against Northwood.

"He called us in and he was kind of quiet," sophomore Eliza Britt said. "We thought it was going to be a meeting about practice, or a game schedule or something.

"We could all tell it was really emotional for him. I think it's a big loss for the program. I think a lot of people are still in shock and don't know what to think. We've spent the last three or four years building up a relationship with Sam. We saw him every day at 5 a.m. to every night at 5 p.m. I think having a different face at those practices and games is going to be really hard for a lot of people on the team."

Stanford-bound senior Cassidy Papa, the Pacific Coast League MVP and Division 1 Player of the Year, echoed Britt. She said many of the girls were totally surprised by the news.

"I think it was a shock to every single girl, to be honest," Papa said. "I don't know if anybody ever knew, or saw it coming. I definitely didn't. But teaching is obviously what he wants to do and pursue, so it's a good opportunity for him."

Bailey started up a successful club program, CdM Aquatics, in 2011. But he said that even with the club and his coaching stipend from the high school, he was dipping into his savings account at the end of every year.

"I'm really excited to get into the classroom," Bailey said of his new position at Beckman.

Beckman, which boasts a 50-meter pool, is a Pacific Coast League foe of CdM. The Patriots finished third in league during the girls' season with a 6-4 record, qualifying for the Division 1 playoffs. The Beckman boys were 4-6 in league last fall, good for fourth place.

"We were hoping to get him on staff [at CdM] as soon as possible," Grable said. "It's frustrating, but we don't have a teaching position to offer. He needs to make a living. It's a loss for CdM, but we wish Sam well ... There's nothing we can do, bottom line. We can't manufacture a teaching job that doesn't exist at our school."

CdM is expected be a younger team next year, following the graduation of a large senior class. Junior center Marina Coskinas will be one of the few returning pieces who got significant varsity experience last year.

Coskinas' mother, Kim, will be the CdM girls' water polo board president next year as well.

"We didn't expect [Bailey to resign] at all," Marina Coskinas said. "A lot of the girls started tearing up. We're happy that he's got a better opportunity, but we're going to miss him."

Grable said the search for a replacement will begin immediately, with details to come. He added that the search for a CdM girls' volleyball coach, started when Marissa Booker resigned in December, also has been reopened.

Twitter: @mjszabo

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World