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Cheney suspends coaches

Reasons center on coaching style, allegations surface of head coach falsifying resume


Last updated 2/10/2020 at 11:53am

CHENEY – Blackhawks boys basketball head coach Frankie Keplinger has been placed on administrative leave, according to a statement from school district officials, while an investigation into his coaching style is conducted. District officials also said in the statement that assistant coach Chad Smith has been placed on leave as well.

Keplinger was suspended Jan. 21, with Smith’s suspension coming a week later.

During the investigation, junior varsity coach James Whiteley will serve as interim head coach. Cheney is 2-14 overall with four games remaining in their Great Northern League season.

Keplinger is the second Cheney varsity head basketball coach to be suspended over concerns about coaching style. Long-time Eastern Washington area girls head coach Lorin Carlon was suspended in December 2018 and subsequently resigned.

An unnamed source first disclosed to the Cheney Free Press on Jan. 25 that Keplinger had been sidelined, but stated the reason was for incorrect information on his resume.

According to a June 4, 2019 news release announcing his hiring, the district stated Keplinger played his high school basketball at Basic High School (Academy) in Henderson, Nev. and accepted a scholarship to “continue his basketball career at Sacramento State University.” The release also stated Keplinger began his coaching career as a freshman coach at Basic, followed by three seasons as assistant coach and seven seasons, beginning in winter 2000-2001, as “Head Basketball Coach.” In 2007, the release stated Keplinger then “helped open Coronado High School in Henderson as the head basketball coach and remained there through 2011.”

According to online information, Coronado High School was founded in 2001 and has only had two boys’ basketball head coaches in its existence: Paul Berg and Jeff Kaufman. A sports brief in the Sept. 29, 2010 Las Vegas Review-Journal announced Berg’s resignation after nine seasons to become dean of students at an area middle school. Kaufman was hired soon after and is the Cougars current head coach.

“We have only had two coaches (boys basketball) in school history,” Coronado Athletics Director Tyrel Cooper said in an email. “I asked around and a few people remember him (Keplinger) as a B/JV (boys/junior varsity) coach in the program, but not as the varsity head coach.”

Information from the online high school sports website MaxPreps, as well as the Las Vegas Review-Journal, indicates from 2005 – 2011 the Basic Academy boys’ varsity basketball team was coached by Steven Bentz, with current head coach Leonard Taylor taking over in the 2011-2012 season.

Officials at Basic Academy did not respond to requests for more information or comments.

Sacramento State Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations Brian Berger said in a Jan. 30 email the Hornets have no players named Frankie Keplinger referenced on their all-time players list, and only three players named “Frank,” all of whom played in the 1950s. A review of the list emailed to the Cheney Free Press confirmed this.

“That was before my arrival so I can’t be 100 percent sure, but our men’s basketball records are pretty thorough,” Berger said of the all-time list’s compilation.

Messages left on Keplinger’s cellphone were not returned prior to the online version of this story on Jan. 31. In a Feb. 1 article in the Spokesman-Review, Keplinger denied both charges, saying he felt “blindsided” by the allegations and vowing to fight them.

Keplinger also said while receiving a scholarship to play at Sacramento State, he never did so and didn’t remember putting that on his resume. He also denied putting a claim to being a head coach at Coronado on his resume.

John McCallum can be reached at


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