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In the wake of learning that his dismissal as Plant's boys basketball coach had been upheld by the county school district, Mike Phillips says he's ready to move on to a new chapter in his life and wishes the program continued success.
In his first -- and perhaps, final -- public comments since learning of the county's decision, Phillips told the St. Petersburg Times his dismissal for providing housing information to a prospective student-athlete who hadn't enrolled at Plant has left him exhausted.
"I have been nothing but honest all the way through this process," Phillips said in a text message to the Times late Monday.
"I am completely worn down. I am not embarrassed because I have been honest throughout. I have had so much support from fellow teachers and coaches at PHS, the South Tampa community, current and former players and their families along with high school and college coaches throughout the state and beyond, and especially from my family -- the support has been overwhelming."
Phillips, whose 250 victories in 15 seasons are a program-best, has acknowledged he spoke with the player and his mother while they were attempting to enroll at Plant, and providing the mother with the number of his sister-in-law -- a realtor -- shortly thereafter when the mother phoned him.
But at an administrative review at the school district office on April 20, Phillips said he felt he did nothing wrong, adding he invited the FHSAA to investigate when the organization learned of the contact between Phillips and the mother.
No formal investigation was conducted by the FHSAA, but it fined Plant $2,500 and placed the boys basketball program on one year of administrative probation after receiving the result of a self-investigation by Plant principal Robert Nelson. In the process, Nelson dismissed Phillips as coach.
"I wish the next coach the best in continuing to build on the rich traditions that (former Panthers coaches) Bobby Paschal, Richard Dyer, Mike Moran, Mark Aubin and Mike Phillips established," wrote Phillips, who remains a P.E. teacher at Plant but expects to be moved to another school within the county.
"It's time for me to begin practicing what I preach and put my family first before basketball."