For the second time in his life, Fred Mann is leaving home.
At 25, he left South Africa for America. Now 22 years later, Mann, an Arizona volleyball coaching legend, is leaving Phoenix Mountain Pointe and a legacy that may never be duplicated.
In 20 years at Mountain Pointe, Mann has won a state-record seven state championships in boys volleyball since starting the school’s program in 1993, and one state title in girls volleyball in his first season coaching the team. He is the only coach to win a championship in both boys and girls volleyball, doing so in the same school year (2001-02).
Last month, Mann was hired as a guidance counselor and to coach girls volleyball at Gilbert Perry.
“It was brutal,” Mann said of the decision. “I’ve been here for 20 years. I know everybody. Everything here is super comfortable. I’m taking a little bit of a risk.
“I love, love, love people I work with here. The administration has been very good to me. It was a tough decision. I went back and forth with it.”
But in the end, family won out. He’s spent too much time not being with his children, all of whom play volleyball. His son Levi is a senior at Perry. His daughter Kaylee is a freshman there. And his 11-year-old daughter Morgan will soon attend Perry as well.
“It came down to what’s best for my family or keep doing what I really enjoy doing,” said Mann, who helped spearhead the movement for boys volleyball to become a sanctioned Arizona Interscholastic Association sport. “I decided the window of opportunity opening up over there let me take that chance.”
There are less than three weeks left until Mann retires from coaching prep boys volleyball. His team is ranked 18th in the power rankings, which sets the seedings for the 24-team state tournament that begins May 4. Coaching both prep volleyball and club volleyball for boys and girls has clogged up his schedule for too long.
“I don’t think I can handle taking on that load anymore,” he said. “It gets to a point when it’s time to get your priorities in perspective. I want to spend time with family. I don’t want to give up on family time, you know?”
Mann has coached and developed many boys volleyball players at Mountain Pointe, including several state Players of the Year and those who went on to play in college and professional volleyball in Europe. One of his first pupils turned out to be his best. After helping Mann and Mountain Pointe win the state’s first ever boys volleyball championship match, Reid Priddy went on to become one of the world’s best all-around players. Priddy was the U.S. Olympic men’s volleyball team’s captain and go-to hitter in 2008, when the team won gold at the Beijing Games.
He’s also coached several girls volleyball players who have been named to All-State teams and earned college scholarships.
His legacy at Mountain Pointe also included the affect he’s had an opposing coaches, those who looked up to him and had constant, memorable battles with his teams over the years.
“His teams have always been the gold stamp for the sport in our state,” Phoenix Desert Vista boys volleyball coach Ryan Tolman said. (Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe are each other’s main rivals.) “We will never see anyone win that much again. There is way too much parity in the sport nowadays, but make no mistake, that is because of what he has been able to give to the sport. He is the godfather of boys volleyball in the state. He put it on the map.”
Gilbert Highland’s Vee Hiapo is the only boys volleyball coach that comes close to Mann’s success, taking her teams to five state title matches to Mann’s 10 total. Hiapo got to know Mann when she coached him on a men’s team.
“When we became competitors, it was with the utmost respect,” Hiapo said. “I enjoy coaching against Fred because he constantly challenges my abilities as a coach and has made me better because of the sleepless nights of preparation needed to compete against his teams. Fred is a legend. We are all excited to watch him build a new regime.”