Dismissed STHS baseball coach still seeking answers
More than two weeks have elapsed since South Tahoe High dismissed Matt Tillson as its baseball coach.
To this day, the five-year Vikings’ baseball coach doesn’t believe the firing was justifiable and contends the decision was made with ulterior motives in mind.
The public outcry from the decision has weighed heavily on the shoulders of STHS Athletic Director Don Borges, who says his job description doesn’t include evaluating coaches. That responsibility belongs to the school’s athletic administrator, Jack Stafford, he said.
Borges said when Tillson was let go, the reason stemmed from the coach being tossed from four games, including the Sierra Division League opener last March in Carson City.
“Matt needs to look in the mirror. He keeps pointing fingers at other issues,” Borges said. “The issue is his engagement and conduct with umpires.”
The athletic administration was so upset after his ejection in Carson City, that it imposed an additional two-game penalty against Tillson. The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association assesses a one-game suspension each time a coach or player is thrown out of a game.
“He knows what happened at Carson. It was unacceptable behavior. He has been suspended for 10 games at South Tahoe from his interaction with umpires. He was told not to go down that road, and he did,” said Borges, counting the parts and complete games Tillson has missed due to NIAA and STHS suspensions. “We want him coaching our kids as a head coach. Our coaches are more valuable coaching than being thrown off the site.”
Tillson asserts that he was warned about his behavior after the Carson ejection, and told that he would be fired if it happened again.
“I never got kicked out of another game. I followed what they said, and they still fired me,” said Tillson, a teacher at St. Theresa School. “Why didn’t they provide written documentation that I’d be fired after the next time. They knew they were firing me. I have proof that I was getting fired before that.”
Borges said the school didn’t want to take a chance that something worse might happen if Tillson were ejected again.
“We don’t know what is going to happen next,” Borges said. “The second part of that is what do the players see and what lesson are they taking from this behavior? As a leader of a team, you have to take responsibilities for your actions.
“I like what Matt did for all of the kids, how he handled the parents, all of the time he put in, that’s not the issue here; the issue is an important issue for us, and it should be for all coaches.”
Tillson said that the athletic administration should have followed up with umpires and the league to verify if he acted in a threatening manner.
“They didn’t call any umpires,” he said. “If you don’t understand the game, you shouldn’t be in athletics. I was protecting my players. I feel I was unjustly fired, and they had ulterior motives guaranteed.”
Attempts on Thursday and Friday to contact the NIAA for its assessment of Tillson’s behavior toward umpires were unsuccessful.
Tillson said he is still upset that the school administrators insist that they informed him that he could reapply for his job under the Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s new policy for reviewing coaches.
In the coaching evaluation handed to Tillson, the comments provided by Stafford regarding the coach read: “Matt, Donnie and I believe that the time has come for a coaching change. Your aggressive demeanor toward the umpires is just not acceptable.” Tillson provided the evaluation to the Tribune.
Tillson said nowhere on the form does it state that he can reapply for the varsity baseball post.
“They made me sound like the bad guy and was being a poor role model to the kids,” Tillson said. “That’s why the community is backing me. People who know me and what I’ve done for the program the last five years, they know that isn’t the truth.”
Borges said that Tillson was verbally told that he could reapply for the position when he became upset during his evaluation.
“As per school policy, he can reapply for his job,” Borges said. “Matt was told that. When he was told that sentence, he was showing aggressive behavior toward the administration at South Tahoe High. He was in a state where he wasn’t listening.”
Tillson stopped short of saying he would reapply for his former post, but he may take his case to a higher command in the school district.
“I would like the school board to seriously look at it,” Tillson said.
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