Coach MaBone had big problems. He had cancer, the kids at Wilkinson Middle School were told. And a broken-down car that he couldn’t afford to fix.
The kids loved Kevin MaBone, the new assistant basketball coach who always came in early and stayed late. So last Friday, they surprised him outside the Texas school.
There were cheerleaders and TV cameras and a big banner: “We [heart] you Coach MaBone.”
And a donated car, lightly used, just for him.
And money. Some students chipped in $2 for his treatment. Their parents helped raise more than $11,000.
“I’m happy,” seventh-grader Khevin Smith told the Dallas Morning News.
MaBone shook his head and smiled at his friends. “I have an operation Monday, but none of that is important now,” he said, and drove off in his gift.
All the way to West Virginia, apparently – where he did not have a doctor’s appointment, but rather a sentencing hearing for embezzling public money.
The kids hadn’t known about that.
So, the Morning News reports, teachers at Wilkinson had to go around to every classroom this week with a prepared statement: The coach lied about cancer, and he’s not coming back to school.
And Mesquite Independent School District officials are trying to explain how they missed MaBone’s criminal history after he pleaded guilty at the start of the school year – labeled a “gas card thief” in a Justice Department news release.
For nearly a decade, it read, MaBone had repeatedly used government credit cards to fuel his personal vehicle while working at jobs centers.
Everyone at Wilkinson Middle School thought he had been working with at-risk youth before moving to Texas last year, according to the Morning News.
He told the principal he had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer before winter break – thus the rush to raise money and find him a working car.
His story began to unravel Monday – the day of his supposed doctor’s visit.
“He called about 11 a.m. and said that they had done some extra scans and his cancer was cured,” Principal Leslie Feinglas told Fox 4. “And they were going to remove the tumor and he would be out for a couple days. We just thought that sounded kind of weird.”
In reality, he was due in a West Virginia federal courthouse, although a judge rescheduled this week’s sentencing hearing for next month. Court records show criminal filings dating back to at least September – a month after MaBone was hired at Mesquite ISD, where officials said he cleared a background check.
The strange phone call prompted staff to search his name on Google, where they learned his history. The principal phoned him back for the truth. A Mesquite ISD representative told the Morning News that he confessed to faking cancer – apparently to hide his criminal history – and was fired.
“I’ve done nothing but cry,” the principal told Fox 4 on Tuesday. “Hopefully, the car will come back.”
Those who raised more than $11,000 on GoFundMe for “Mr. MaBone’s Medical and Car Fund” will get their money back, the Morning News reported.
But students who gave cash at the school won’t, because no one kept track of who gave what.
The kids have other problems, anyway.
Gwen Jones told the Morning News that her daughters – 11 and 12 – had come home last Friday and announced “they did something good.”
“They’ll learn that not everybody is good people,” the mom said. “And that’s the world we live in.”