During the 2017–2018 basketball season, Riverview High basketball coach BJ Ivey tore his ACL during a practice session.
He was telling his team what he wanted in a drill the best way he knew how — by doing it himself — and came up limp. Ivey could have taken the second half of the season to rest and let his assistants lead the way, but he didn’t. He coached from the bench, leg in a cast, because it was his job to lead no matter the circumstances.
This offseason, the boys basketball program, and the school itself, is losing that leader.
Ivey, who also taught social studies at Riverview, has accepted the director of basketball operations position at Florida Gulf Coast University, effective June 4. The deal is contingent on Ivey’s background check clearing — as of May 28, that had not yet happened — but that should be a formality, so much so that on May 21, Riverview boys basketball’s Twitter account shared the news with its followers alongside a goodbye message from Ivey.
“As an educator and coach, one of the primary lessons I try to impart to each student in my room and each player on my team is you must always continue to grow,” Ivey said in the message. “We are always changing, and growth is the positive outcome of lifelong learning … I am excited about the opportunity to learn and grow at FGCU. Growth, as it turns out, also requires sacrifice. I am grappling with this sacrifice as I face leaving Riverview High. This decision was not an easy one because the sacrifice for me is huge — huge because I love it here. I love the kids, I love the staff, I love the community, I love the place.”
Ivey spent 14 years with Riverview. He led the 2016 team to the final four, the Rams’ second trip in program history (1993). That team reached the championship game, for the first time, by beating South Miami High 64–63 in overtime. They would fall to Coral Springs High 61–57 in the final. Ivey was also named Sarasota County’s Teacher of the Year in 2017 for his work in the classroom and was an assistant coach on the 17U Nike Team Florida AAU team.
In the Riverview locker room hangs a quote, capital letters included: "It mUSt be jUSt about US." It is something former Ram and current Murray State guard Brion Whitley, a member of the 2016 team, took with him when he left and helped him when adjusting to college life.
"Coach was big into not worrying about outside influences but focusing on getting ourselves better every day," Whitley said. "He also knew it was bigger than basketball and talked to us about how to become a man and how big communication is.
"Ivey was a great coach but we do not love him because he coached up a final four (team) and lots of wins. We love him because he cared for our academics, our home environment and our relationship with God. He is a legend and forever will be."
Ivey will not strictly be coaching in his new position, as the director of basketball operations is a multi-faceted job that requires scheduling official and unofficial visits for recruits, working with the team in the film room, being an academic liaison between players and the university and more, depending on the program. But the position can be a stepping stone to bigger things. Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens, in perhaps the most famous example, started in the role in 2000 at Butler University before working his way to head coach and leading the Bulldogs to the 2010 national title game against Duke University. He left in 2013 for the Celtics job.
The coaches Ivey’s teams went against carry reverence for the job he did.
“Every year we played them, coach Ivey (did) a great job of putting his best players in situations to maximize their ability,” Lakewood Ranch coach Jeremy Schiller said. “You always knew his teams would be well prepared and have a great game plan. BJ is one of the most well respected coaches in the area, and in the college basketball community. He has (had) a lasting impact on our area, and will do the same for FGCU.”
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.