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Prose and Kohn

Sarasota High coach reaches 300-win mark at varsity level

B.J. Ivey has taken his time on the basketball sidelines to heart.

B.J. Ivey was presented by Sarasota High with a commemorative basketball and shirt in recognition of his 300th varsity win.
B.J. Ivey was presented by Sarasota High with a commemorative basketball and shirt in recognition of his 300th varsity win.
Photo by Ryan Kohn
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No matter what it is, 300 of anything tends to be a lot. 

You would not want to fit 300 oranges into your refrigerator, or wear a sock with 300 holes in it. Cincinnati Bengals fans would, perhaps, wish to drink 300 beers after the way their team lost to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, but I would not advise them doing that. Three protestors railing against one issue or another is not a story, but 300 is. And just ask the Persians how much damage 300 Spartan warriors can do when well-prepared. 

What about basketball wins? At the high school level, where teams play approximately 25-30 games a year, 300 wins means not only that someone knows how to coach and motivate, but that someone is committed to leading and teaching young people for the long term. 

The Sarasota High boys basketball program was in disarray when area veteran B.J. Ivey arrived on the bench before the 2022-2023 season. The Sailors went 5-20 in 2022 and has not finished a season with a winning record since 2013-2014. 

That will change this year. With one game remaining — a good road test against Cardinal Mooney High (15-9) at 7 p.m. Thursday — the Sailors are 20-4. Even if the Sailors drop their final game, they will have inverted their record from last season. And on Jan. 24, Ivey had a personal milestone arrive: that magical 300th win, a road victory over a solid Braden River High team (14-8) that beat the Sailors 56-48 earlier in the season. 

BJ Ivey picked up his 300th win on Jan. 24, 2023, in a Sailors' road contest against Braden River High.
Photo by Ryan Kohn

Ivey was, as usual, deferential when asked about his accomplishment. 

"I don't think it's necessarily about what this means to me," Ivey said. "It's more about the great memories that I've made with kids throughout past years. You just start reminiscing." 

That's the thing about sports milestones: they are in some ways arbitrary. Reaching 300 wins is not all that different from reaching 299 wins — it is, in fact, one win different. But we set up these milestones not only as marks of greatness, but as road signs reminding us to look back at how we got there. 

In B.J. Ivey's case, the road started at Riverview High, with the girls basketball program. He coached the girls for three years before moving to the boys program and helping the Rams flourish. Over the next decade, he and the Rams won eight district titles and reached the 2015-2016 Florida High School Athletic Association state championship game. In the process, Ivey helped players like Brion Whitley (Southern University) and A.J. Caldwell (University of Tennessee-Chattanooga) reach the NCAA Division I college ranks. 

In 2019, Ivey took a leave from the high school ranks to work as the director of operations at Florida Gulf Coast University, but returned to The Out-of-Door Academy in 2020 and in 2022 took the Sailors job, getting back to his public school roots. 

The Sailors record makes the program's changes apparent. Even if it wasn't as impressive, the players' attitudes make Ivey's ripple effect known. After a Nov. 29 win over ODA, Sailors junior Daniel Munn said Ivey's arrival altered how the Sailors approach the game of basketball.  

"He has completely changed our culture," Munn said. "We're more disciplined. We're more hard-working. And we hate losing." 

In December, sophomore guard Oliver Boyle offered similar thoughts. Last year's team was about "me, me, me," Boyle said. This year has been about the "we." When you play for each other — when you care about each other — you play better, Boyle said. You don't want to let your teammates down. 

Playing for the team over the self is a hallmark of Ivey's coaching prerogative. It is how those scrappy Riverview teams overcame size and talent disadvantages to become one of the hardest postseason outs in the state. 

After Ivey's milestone win, the Sailors showered him with congratulations — literally.

At the Sailors home game against Booker High on Jan. 26, the first home game following Ivey's milestone, the school presented him with a commemorative basketball and T-shirt, both emblazoned with a "300 wins" logo. After the game, a group of Ivey's former players, including some of his Riverview girls players, walked down to the court to say congratulations in person. 

For someone like Ivey, that is what coaching is all about. 

"It means a lot, for them to take time out of their day and come and share that moment with me," Ivey said. 

Ivey knows more about successful basketball coaching than most, but there's one piece of advice that stands above the rest in his mind. It comes not from the court, but from the church. Before Ivey married his wife, Samantha Ivey, he met with a priest, who reminded him that love is a choice. The priest, of course, meant that if BJ Ivey wanted to love and commit to Samantha forever, then he should marry her. But Ivey has carried that to his coaching career as well. 

"You get an opportunity to coach a group of kids, and you get an opportunity to model choosing to love them," Ivey said. "Good times and bad. When it is easy and when it is hard. And there's different kinds of love. Sometimes you put your arm around them and speak greatness into them, encourage them. Other times you have to give a little tough love."

Ivey said he has too many favorite moments from his career to share, but as examples, he pointed out the state championship game appearance in 2015-2016 and the Riverview girls going on the road and beating a Lake Mary High team ranked 25th in the country, then having a joyous bus ride home. The two moments share something: a team digging deep to do something most people thought it could not. 

That's another hallmark of Ivey teams, and its a quality this year's Sailors team shares. Even on Jan. 26 against Booker the Sailors showed resilience, trailing into the fourth quarter before winning 45-40. 

They have a lot left in their tank — and so does their coach. As the Sailors continue to develop under Ivey's tutelage, 400 will be here soon enough. 



Ryan Kohn

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.

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