When Fred Mooney made the trip out to Marquette on Wednesday morning, he figured it was simply to meet about plans for the scheduled July 6 re-start of high school sports in Indiana.
Instead, the three-year Blazers boys basketball head coach was informed by Athletic Director Katie Collignon that his contract was not going to be renewed.
"It was a sad thing to hear," Mooney said. "It caught me off guard. I haven't even had the time to think about it. I was blindsided. I didn't see it coming. I don't think it was the A.D.'s decision. I think it came from the principal. The A.D.'s words were, they want to go a different direction. I said, what different direction is there than the direction we're going? If I was on the reverse side, I'd call my teachers in to make sure we were on the same page, headed in the same direction. I love the game. I love the kids. Coaching is where my heart is. I'm at a loss for words."
Assistant Athletic Director Brad Collignon cited school policy in not addressing personnel decision, but called Mooney 'a very good man (who) represented the school really well.'
Mooney didn't want to speculate further on the reasons behind it, but former Blazers coach Donovan Garletts wasn't shy about it He spoke to Mooney, a Schererville-based painting contractor, on a business matter Tuesday.
"It leaves a bad taste in my mouth," said Garletts, who had Mooney on his staff from 2011-17. "Unless things have changed, the principal (Allyson Headd) has the sole discretion on hirings and firings at Marquette Catholic. If that's the person who pulled the trigger on this, they need to take a good, long look in the mirror. I'm incredibly disappointed in the decision. Fred was an incredible mentor to me and a very good friend. I looked to him for a lot of things. You won't find a person more devoted. He drove an hour to and from school every day. Fred Mooney, Jim Bracewell, those were people I loved being with every single day for seven years of my life. When I say that, I mean every bit of it."
Marquette went 37-39 in Mooney's three seasons with two Class 2A sectional titles, losing to eventual state champion Andrean in overtime in the regional semifinal in 2019. The Blazers went 8-15 this season with a lineup that often included three freshmen and a sophomore.
"This team's built for the future," Mooney said. "We were moving in the right direction. The young men poured their hearts into the program. I can't say enough positive things about the parents. Their support was as good as any I've ever had. They were behind us. They knew where we were headed and they bought in. We have several young men who have the chance to play basketball at the next level, but we want to prepare them for life, not just for basketball. It takes a village for a young person to turn out right and I felt we did a real good job at that, promoting education, clean living, solid core values. We checked grades every week. I felt they were good ambassadors for Marquette."
It was Mooney's hope to address the team in person on the subject, but when word began to get around Wednesday, he spoke to them by way of a group message.
"Hopefully, in the near future, we'll be able to get together so we can go out the right way," he said. "We taught them not to quit for any reason, to play the last second as hard as they do the first. That's how we want them to approach life. They're all made in the image of God, they're all made for a reason, and it was our goal to help get them there. I wish these young men nothing but the best. I'll be following them and will help them any way I can. I have relationships at Marquette that will last the rest of my life."
Mooney, who spent 35 years at Hammond Baptist before coming to Marquette, doesn't rule out getting involved in coaching again in some capacity. His son Tim was on his Blazers staff.
"I can't say enough about the level of basketball intellect Tim brought to the table," he said. "He has a wealth of wisdom. His style of play is next level, ball movement, player movement, five players, not one or two. Things happen for a reason. I don't know God's will, what he has in mind for me in the realm of coaching, but if the right fit presents itself, I'll consider it."
Fred Mooney will not be retained as Marquette Catholic boys basketball coach. Mooney was 37-39 in three seasons with the Blazers, winning two Class 2A sectional titles. He spent the prior six seasons as an assistant coach at the school after 35 years at Hammond Baptist.
(Photo by Jim Peters)