Exiled Springstead High School basketball coach Steve Thompson's resume of exaggerations and deceit exposed more than a teacher/coach inflating his career accomplishments. Thompson's hiring last year by Springstead High School indicates a school district paying short shrift to its human resource duties, enabling a fraud to enter the classroom and gymnasium where he should have served as educator, mentor and role model.
Instead, Springstead principal Susan Duval hired a guy rivaling Tommy Flanagan, the pathological liar portrayed by Jon Lovitz on Saturday Night Live. And at least one parent now says Thompson browbeat the team with his fictitious record of wins and famous acquaintances in order to build his own standing of authority while insulting the current players as weak and useless.
That Thompson's resume failed to be properly vetted by the Hernando School District is particularly disconcerting considering the Pasco School District withdrew an earlier job offer to the coach when Thompson failed to provide sufficient documentation of his credentials.
And what credentials they were, at least on paper: More than 400 career coaching victories, state playoff teams, coach of the year recognition from the Associated Press, coaching a future NBA star, and working at camps for then-Indiana University coach Bobby Knight.
Yet, under scrutiny from Times reporters, most of his boasts fell apart. Thompson won fewer than a quarter of the games he claimed and he listed coaching and teaching jobs at schools that do not exist. The guy can't even keep his stories straight. The resume submitted for a basketball coaching position at Gulf High School in New Port Richey had 15 discrepancies from the job history he provided to Springstead.
Pasco withdrew its job offer Sept. 23, 2009, when it couldn't verify Thompson's employment history, but Hernando hired him two weeks later. Springstead principal Duval told the Times she was comfortable with the hiring decision, that the district didn't try to account for the coaching record and she was unaware of inconsistencies on his resume.
"It's important to know they've run a program of character and quality,'' Duval said.
How would they know, if they didn't bother with a thorough check? Character doesn't accompany bogus resumes and the Hernando School District needs to evaluate how it conducts background checks of prospective employees. The lack of criminal record shouldn't be the only litmus test. Parents are entitled to know their children's education isn't being entrusted to a con artist.
The district didn't begin re-evaluating Thompson's work history until February, the day after reporters asked for his application and resume. Duval then terminated Thompson during his probationary period, saying it was based on performance. Still, district personnel should be embarrassed at their role as enablers.
Even Thompson's last-ditch efforts to save face failed when he pointed to a former NBA star as a reference.
''I have no idea who that cat is,'' said one-time Orlando Magic guard Anfernee "Penny'' Hardaway.
Neither did the Hernando School District.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Upon further review, according to the Meridian Star, the Philadelphia (Miss.) High Tornadoes, led by coach Stephen Thompson, made it to the Class 2A playoffs in 2006.
Below are several comments from Stephen Thompson regarding the articles published by the St. Petersburg Times:
“In an article dated August 22, 2009 written by Joey Knight and appearing in the St Petersburg Times the circumstances of my turning down the Gulf boys basketball coaching job are revealed. Athletic Director Travis Dewalt is quoted. As a result of my not being able to secure a teaching position within the county I terminated my application process and my interest in the position. In late August of 2009 I began interviews and negotiations with Springstead HS to assume the role of teacher and Head Boys basketball coach.
“I entered into negotiations with Springstead in early September and had accepted the job in mid September 2009. There was no job to rescind on September 23, 2009 because I had already resigned the job in August 2009 and Pasco Co reposted the open position as stated by Travis Dewalt. This whole episode was reported by Joey Knight of the St. Pete Times in August 2009.
“I assume I was released after our season ended in the state playoffs because they knew I was not happy at the school and they wanted to be free to search for a new coach and have a teaching position available. They were well within their rights to do this.
“In 1995 and 1996 my Tyner HS boys basketball teams advanced to the district championship games and to the State Regionals much as it is in the Florida HS basketball championship series. Since I had been coaching in Mississippi I simply stated 'State Playoffs' on my resume because that is the championship series alignment in that state. Matthew Gillespie with the TSSAA obviously did not recognize this term as it is only used in the state football championship series in Tennessee. I am sure he thought the reference was to the State Final Four.
"My coaching record has not been accurately documented by the Times. They have neither listed records at all schools nor have these been verified totally by the Times.
“I have in my possession every piece of information from my personnel file with the Hernando Co. schools and there is nothing pertaining to this article in these documents. All observations were satisfactory, all evaluations satisfactory, and they checked past references with a fine tooth comb as they would any candidate for any teaching or administrative position. There are copies of phone reference checks and they even contacted one of the most successful basketball coaches in Mississippi basketball history to inquire about my coaching experience.
“I spoke with Penny Hardaway in April . He never knew me personally but he now recognizes I did indeed coach him. I never had any impact on his career but I never stated this to anyone associated with the Times. My coaching in the Bluff City League can be verified through current Southwestern State CC head coach and former University of Memphis assistant coach Vertais Sails who is a member of the National Junior College Hall of Fame. It was his league.”
Johnny Mims, Executive Director of the Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC), stated that documents received from MAC by the St. Petersburg Times were unofficial and that the MAC could not document the information because the coaching took place outside of Mississippi.