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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Hernando High's basketball coach is accused of exposing himself in a park.
By AUSTIN BOGUES and DAVID MURPHY
Published July 26, 2007
Tony Vasquez, hired in May, was a basketball star for Hernando High in the mid 1970s
BROOKSVILLE - Hired in May as the head coach of the boys basketball team at his alma mater, Antonio "Tony" Vasquez talked then as if he had landed his dream job.
A star player for Hernando High in the mid 1970s, he finished his career as the school's all-time leading scorer, and said he was anxious to lead the program back to prominence.
On Wednesday, those plans came to a screeching halt.
Vasquez, 48, of Brooksville resigned from Hernando on Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours after Brooksville police arrested him for exposing himself to an undercover officer at Bud McKethan Park, off S Broad Street.
Acting in response to complaints of inappropriate sexual conduct at the park's bathrooms, police said they set up an undercover operation.
According to an arrest affidavit, Vasquez approached a male officer in the bathroom and said sometimes people "mess around" inside the park, referring to conducting sexual acts.
According to the report, Vasquez then unzipped his pants and exposed himself. Pointing to his genitals, he said to the undercover officer, "Come on." The officer immediately arrested him.
He was released on $500 bond on a single misdemeanor count of indecent exposure in public.
Hernando athletic director Marion Jones said Vasquez handed him a resignation letter Wednesday morning, citing only "personal reasons."
Jones said he did not know about the arrest. "He just gave the resignation letter to me and vacated," he said.
Hernando principal Betty Harper declined to comment.
Vasquez could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. His lawyer, Larry Disparti, said he was still investigating the facts in the case. Disparti said the charge is not a sex offense.
Vasquez's previous coaching job also ended abruptly. In 2006, he was forced to resign as girls basketball coach at Pasco High.
According to his Pasco personnel file, Vasquez was forced to take a six-week leave of absence and undergo anger counseling after two incidents in which he directed profanity at another school employee. In one instance, according to a written reprimand by superintendent Heather Fiorentino, he used insulting language in front of two students.
When Hernando hired Vasquez to replace Jeff Laing on May 30, then-athletic director Brent Gaustad said the school was aware of the situation at Pasco, but that all of the coach's recommendations came back positive. At the time, Vasquez said he attended the required five anger-management sessions.
He taught last year at Land O'Lakes High but did not coach.
Also arrested in a separate incident at the park Tuesday was Byron Smith, 62, of Brooksville. Authorities allege that Smith approached an undercover officer near the bathroom in the park and grabbed his crotch area, squeezing his genitals through his clothing.
Smith was arrested on one count of misdemeanor battery and was being held on a $500 bond in Hernando County jail. He could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Brooksville authorities said they were still investigating but had no plans to increase their presence at the park.
"We're going to continue to monitor and see if this stops it," Detective John Messer said.