Kingwood coach resigns after incident involving son

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, December 15, 2010

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

Kingwood Christian School boys’ basketball coach James Pope recently stepped down from his position following an incident involving his son, Tyrone, who is a senior at the school.

Pope, who was in his first season as the Lions’ coach, claims the school searched his son’s vehicle on school grounds without the authority to do so, and said school officials claimed Pope had a bottle containing marijuana residue inside his black BMW.

Pope said he was told by Kingwood Christian School Administrator Benny Cunningham that a tow truck service was called by someone Nov. 23 to remove a vehicle from the church property on Industrial Drive, but instead arrived at the school property on Royalty Drive. Pope said Cunningham told him the tow truck driver mistakenly entered his son’s vehicle in preparation to tow it from the property and claimed the driver found the bottle inside the car.

Pope said his son told him his vehicle was locked when the tow truck driver arrived.

Kingwood Church Pastor Jay West did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Cunningham declined to comment about the incident.

“This is my comment — no comment,” Cunningham said. “This is a very serious legal issue. This is not a news story. There are a lot of other things that have happened. You’re not even close to having the whole truth.”

After finding the bottle, the tow truck driver returned the bottle where he found it and alerted school officials, Pope said he was told by Cunningham. School officials then searched the vehicle and confiscated it for evidence, Pope said.

The Kingwood Church board and Kingwood Christian School board each met with Pope and presented the evidence to him Nov. 29. According to Pope, school officials told him that his son was being expelled from school due to the incident.

Pope withdrew his son from school and resigned as boys’ basketball coach following the meeting.

Pope, who claims the school committed criminal trespassing of his property, said he was told law enforcement was not contacted at all during the incident. Pope also claims school officials conducted an illegal search and seizure.

“That was criminal trespassing,” Pope said. “A crime was committed in the school parking lot.”

Pope said school officials called the tow truck driver’s actions a “mistake.” Pope said he was told by others who witnessed the situation that the tow truck driver was told the color of the vehicle and was told the keys would be placed under the driver’s side floor mat.

“They said it was ‘just a mistake and mistakes happen,'” Pope said.

Pope said the tow truck driver did not find the keys to his son’s vehicle under the floor mat and should have stopped trying to tow the vehicle.

According to Pope, school officials told him his son could not continue to attend the school because of what had allegedly been found in his car. Pope contends the burden of proof is upon the school to prove the ownership of the Gatorade bottle.

“There has been no investigation,” Pope said.

Pope said he plans to meet with an attorney to discuss possible legal action against Kingwood Christian School.

Hank Fillingim was named the Lions’ interim coach after Pope stepped down.