The basketball coach who runs a nonprofit funded by billionaire Steve Ballmer is resigning from his job at Lakeside School in Seattle after an independent investigator found he was improperly sponsoring out-of-season sports activities.
Officials at the elite private school released the results Wednesday of an investigation conducted by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA). The review followed a recent Seattle Times story that examined how Lakeside managed a dramatic turnaround in its basketball program and nearly won the state title in 2013.
The WIAA investigator determined that coach Tavio Hobson, in the offseason, was improperly sponsoring basketball activities with Lakeside players at the nonprofit he operates.
“He, and the staff under his direction, have direct contact with potential Lakeside School students and current Lakeside students,” the WIAA report says. “Further, both former and present assistant basketball coaches at the school have worked in various capacities at A PLUS Youth Program.”
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Lakeside said Hobson will leave the school next week. Hobson said in a statement he appreciated the opportunities that Lakeside provided him.
“The school made a mistake in our interpretation of a W.I.A.A. rule, for which I, as head of school, take full responsibility,” said school leader Bernie Noe in a statement. “We have already taken steps to address this mistake.”
Hobson began working with Ballmer’s oldest son a decade ago and got the Lakeside basketball job in 2009. Around the same time, he created the nonprofit – the A PLUS Youth Program – that was funded by Ballmer and involved basketball stars such as Brandon Roy, Martell Webster and Jamal Crawford.
Former NBA player Guy Williams said in a recent interview that he was involved in an early planning session for the nonprofit and said it was designed to support Lakeside athletics by identifying talented players in the community while also providing Ballmer’s three sons a venue to play basketball around talented athletes. Williams said the ultimate plan was to transform Lakeside into an athletic powerhouse similar to Detroit Country Day School – the school Ballmer attended in his youth.
The WIAA said it found no evidence that the nonprofit was created to funnel students to Lakeside.
The WIAA investigator, former Peninsula High School principal Dele Gunnerson, explored other areas issues raised by the Times story but didn’t find any other violations. The Times story detailed how one star player, Tramaine Isabell, left his home to live in a $6 million mansion owned by a Lakeside supporter. The WIAA said that was allowed.
The Times also reported on how Hobson was the primary point of contact for two key players who ended up at the school. But the WIAA said there was “no evidence that would describe a planned effort to recruit” players. A member of the admissions committee had questioned how two players got into the school without going through the typical admissions process, but the WIAA said summer admissions were allowed.
The WIAA also found no evidence that the school had relaxed academic standards to help athletes.