There is a lasting image of Joe Lampkin, standing poolside in the O'Connell Center.
He turns toward Mitchell's boys swim team, holds up two fingers and flashes a rare smile.
Mitchell was at its pinnacle as a program Nov. 5, taking second at the Class 2A region meet in Gainesville.
Mitchell sent the most swimmers ever to the state meet and accomplished more than any of its preceding teams.
On Tuesday, Mitchell's brass informed the first-year coach by phone he was suspended the remainder of the season, including today's Class 2A state finals.
Principal Jim Michaels said the breaking point came during last week's overnight trip to Gainesville. There was a specific incident he declined to detail. Michaels said this was not the first problem.
"There was a groundswell of parent concern on how the team was functioning," Michaels said. "They're mostly just difference of opinion on how he handles things. I'm not talking about lineups, but coaching style. … We also had a concern with the handling of a situation. There's an investigation with it going on. I didn't feel it was in the best interest of the kids for him to travel with the team because it's an overnight trip."
When reached Wednesday afternoon by the Times, Lampkin declined comment.
Michaels said he conferred with athletic director Ian Mooney, assistant principal Jessica Schultz and assistant superintendent Jim Davis before suspending Lampkin.
Mitchell administrators met with the team Tuesday afternoon. Schultz traveled to the state meet and is the acting coach, Michaels said.
"They understood we were doing the best thing for them," Michaels said.
Mitchell parents reached Wednesday afternoon declined comment. The team already was in Orlando.
This is not the first time Lampkin has butted heads with a high school administration. In 2007, he was not retained as Gulf's swim coach for unspecified reasons. At the time, some Gulf parents and swimmers backed Lampkin and lobbied former principal Thomas Imerson and the Pasco County School Board to reconsider.
Lampkin still teaches social studies at the school.
"We did know about the Gulf situation," Michaels said. "We had gotten some good references based on his knowledge of the sport. There's no doubt he definitely does have that.
"We didn't have a very wide pool of applicants. It's difficult to find someone with that background."
Izzy Gould can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 421-3886.