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Saturday, March 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cheney basketball coaches put on leave amid alleged student mistreatment

UPDATED: Sat., Feb. 1, 2020

Cheney High School boys basketball coach Frankie Keplinger and his top assistant have been placed on indefinite administrative leave pending a district investigation into alleged verbal mistreatment of players.

Also under investigation are allegations that Keplinger falsified portions of his resume when he applied for the position last spring.

Keplinger denied both allegations when contacted Friday afternoon.

“It’s completely false and mindboggling,” said Keplinger, who was hired last summer after two years as an assistant at Mt. Spokane High School.

The 42-year-old Keplinger was suspended Jan. 21 by high school athletic director Jeff Chandler.

“He told me that there were ‘allegations you verbally abused the players,’” Keplinger said.

Assistant coach Chad Smith was suspended a week later.

Junior varsity coach James Whiteley has assumed varsity coaching duties since Jan. 21.

The Blackhawks are 2-14 overall and 1-7 in the Great Northern League.

“The season hasn’t gone the way we’d have liked it to go,” Keplinger said, citing injuries as a contributing factor.

However, the investigation centers on allegations of verbal abuse, not the team’s record, the district says.

“The Cheney School District has placed the high school boys basketball head coach and varsity assistant on administrative leave while investigating concerns regarding their coaching style,” Superintendent Robert Roettger said in a statement.

With only four games left in the regular season, it’s unclear when that investigation will be resolved.

“Of course we want to do these things as quickly as possible, but we also want to be thoughtful in our investigation,” said Roettger, who would offer no other details.

Keplinger said he felt blindsided by the allegations and his suspension.

“I’ve never did anything like this in my life,” Keplinger said. “In 17 years of coaching I’ve never wavered once from my principles.”

Keplinger also promised to fight the allegations.

“I don’t plan on letting this go,” he said.

Keplinger said he was aware of some parents’ dissatisfaction with “diminished playing time” for some seniors.

After Cheney lost to Medical Lake on Jan. 18 in a special spirit game played at Eastern Washington University, Keplinger got word that “parents were in the parking lot” complaining about playing time.

Even murkier is the issue of Keplinger’s resume.

In announcing his hiring last June, the school district issued a news release citing Keplinger’s playing and coaching career.

According to the news release announcing his hiring, the district stated Keplinger played his high school basketball at Basic High School (Academy) in Henderson, Nev. (graduating in 1995) and accepted a scholarship to “continue his basketball career at Sacramento State University.”

The all-time roster at Sacramento State shows no record of Keplinger.

“That’s because I never played there,” said Keplinger, who said he never put that on his resume.

Likewise, the news release states that in 2007, Keplinger “helped open Coronado (Nev.) High School in Henderson as the head basketball coach and remained there through 2011.”

However, when contacted earlier this week by the Cheney Free Press, Coronado officials said Keplinger was only an assistant coach.

That’s true, said Keplinger, but he denied claiming to be a head coach on his resume.

Chandler was unavailable to comment Friday afternoon.

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