by Kent Sterling
You remember George O’Leary, right? In 2001, he left Georgia Tech for his dream job as the head football coach at the University of Notre Dame. A little fact checking was done, and O’Leary was a goner.
O’Leary claimed to have received a degree at “SUNY – Stony Brook University” – an unfortunate and nonexistent amalgam of two universities, and to have earned three letters in football at the University of New Hampshire when he had not played in a single game.
Steve Masiello was the head basketball coach at Manhattan, and because of the Jaspers played well enough this season to qualify for the NCAA Tournament and push defending championship Louisville to the brink before succumbing in their opening round game, South Florida came calling with a $1-million per for five years deal.
The deal was done, and every appeared happy until South Florida checked with Kentucky to verify the degree Masiello claimed to have earned. Unlike O’Leary’s claim, at least the University of Kentucky exists, but sadly whatever academic work Masiello did as a Wildcat from 1996-2000 was not deemed worthy of a degree.
While there are very few head coaches without a degree, it certainly doesn’t disqualify a guy from being a good coach. The problem with not having a degree when you are already a coach is that continuing work need to earn one reveals the deceit, so the coach becomes trapped in his own lie until finally someone calls the registrar to check the items listed on the resume’.
At that point, the coach became a punchline. Five million dollars is gone because Masello fell a few hours short, and figured, “Close enough!” A dream fulfilled and crushed within the same 24 hours.
And now how in the hell can Manhattan take the guy back without looking like the stooges they were when they never checked the veracity of the documents Masiello submitted? So, Masiello is has gone from hot shot young coach to millionaire to unemployed in less than two days.
Lies have a funny – maybe there is a better word for it than funny – way of never quite being left far enough behind to not be a small concern throughout your life. You can bet Masiello was sweating his bed sheets wet Monday night. It’s been reported that Masiello called the registrar at Kentucky, but the content of the conversation was not shared. Maybe it went something like this:
- Registrar: Good morning, registrar’s office. This is Pearline.
- Masiello: Hi Pearline, this is Steve Masiello.
- Registrar: That’s quite a coincidence, Mr. Masiello. I was just talking to someone about you.
- Masiello: From South Florida University?
- Registrar: Why, yes. You’re a good guesser!
- Masiello: Shit!
- Registrar: Excuse me?
- Masiello: I apologize, Pearline. Would you mind sharing what you told them?
- Registrar: They asked about your degree, and I said ‘Well, we have no record of a Steve Masiello receiving a degree from the University of Kentucky, and then they spelled your name out, and I said ‘Yes, that’s the one. No degree for S-t-e-v-e M-a-s-i-e-l-l-o. He came up just a teensy bit short.’ That’s about how it went, and then they said that same word you said earlier and hung up.
- Masellio: Are you certain I didn’t earn a degree?
- Registrar: That’s what they asked me – three times. Is this a problem for you, Steve? I sure would hate it if something I said caused you a problem. I remember you playing for the Cats. I remember telling my husband back then – you know he’s passed on now, but he sure was a big UK fan, never missed a game – anyway, I told him that I sure admired how you stayed on the team and worked so hard even though you almost never played.
- Masellio: Yeah, okay. Listen, what kind of car do you drive? Maybe I can help you upgrade your ride.
- Registrar: Well, it’s a 1987 Dodge Aries K. My husband bought it new for me. You know he’s passed on now. Fell down a hole in the backyard. It was the darndest thing. Just out walking the dog, and down he went 35 feet. Legs busted right up through his scalp. Darndest thing. Closed casket, you know. It just had to be. Couldn’t have people see him like that. Hello, hello?
So, kids, don’t lie and you get to keep the million per year, build a real resume’, and avoid listening to a lady in Kentucky talk about how her husband’s thigh bone popped through the top of his head.
Every decade or so we learn this lesson the hard way. O’Leary bounced back and is now a very successful coach at Central Florida. Masiello will be a coach again soon because he wins, and that helps salve the wounds a lie might cause.