B.J. Ivey was previously the head coach at Riverview High.
B.J. Ivey was not expecting the call.
The former Riverview High boys basketball coach was settling into his newest position, as a teacher at Parrish Community High. He landed there after becoming a victim of budget cuts at Florida Gulf Coast University, where he was the director of basketball operations for one season.
He anticipated staying away from basketball, at least for a while.
Then The Out-of-Door Academy called.
"I started talking with [Head of School] David Mahler, and he told me the school was looking to upgrade its athletic programs," Ivey said. "He said I would have the opportunity to grow a program, to put my fingerprints on it."
That intrigued Ivey, so he listened. Mahler's pitch was convincing. The announcement was made Oct. 12. B.J. Ivey was back in the high school ranks as a head coach.
For now, Ivey will continue to teach at Parrish Community while coaching at ODA. Ivey said the private nature of ODA was a main attraction. It allows the school to do things, like start the school day later for older grades, that public schools cannot do. Serving the students first is a priority for Ivey, he said, and that extends to the basketball court.
Ivey said the opportunity to have control over ODA's middle school program was also attractive, for similar reasons. Ivey, who was named Sarasota County's Teacher of the Year in 2017, said he plans on running the ODA basketball program with specific curriculums in place for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students that will gradually prepare them for the varsity level. If Ivey's program inherits a special talent, he said, he would not hesitate to use an eighth-grader on the varsity team, another advantage of being at a private school.
"If I'm a parent, that's something that would attract me to ODA," Ivey said. "You will always have your kid being challenged athletically. They don't have to be held back."
Ivey coached at Riverview for 13 years, three as the girls head coach and 10 as the boys' head coach. Per a release from ODA, Ivey led the boys to eight district titles and a trip to the state championship game in 2016, where the Rams fell 61-57 to Coral Springs High. Multiple Rams, like current Murray State guard Brion Whitley and current UT-Chattanooga guard AJ Caldwell, reached NCAA Division I schools under his tutelage. He left in May 2019 to become the director of basketball operations at Florida Gulf Coast.
Ivey said he learned a lot from FGCU Coach Michael Fly and the rest of the staff. Although Ivey was not allowed to instruct any FGCU players, he was allowed to sit in meetings and listen to the staff prepare for games.
"Looking back at it now, the last year feels like a sabbatical," Ivey said. "I'm rejuvenated. I'm dying to get back on the court."
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.