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New Sarasota High athletic director wants to build college-style programs

BJ Ivey will continue to coach the Sailors boys' basketball team, in addition to his new responsibilities.

Sailors boys basketball Head Coach BJ Ivey always gets the most out of his teams.
Sailors boys basketball Head Coach BJ Ivey always gets the most out of his teams.
File photo
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On Dec. 8, BJ Ivey got the offer he wanted. 

Following Sarasota High Athletic Director Shane Ahles stepping down from his position, the school needed a replacement. Ivey, the school's boys basketball coach, turned out to be a willing candidate. 

Ivey had taken on similar responsibilities during his time at The Out-of-Door Academy, when former ODA athletic director Kippie Crouch stepped down a few weeks into Ivey's tenure in 2020. Ivey, who doubled as an assistant AD at the school, and fellow assistant AD Mike Kelley collaborated on completing the school's AD duties for the rest of the school year, Ivey said. That experience opened Ivey's eyes to what he could do in the position. 

Now he'll have a chance to do it with the Sailors — and not for the interim, but for the long term. Ivey interviewed for the Sarasota AD job and was hired. Ivey will continue coaching the boys basketball program and teaching two classes through the rest of the school year. Next year, he'll teach just one class, focusing more on his AD and basketball duties, he said. 

His tenure as the school's AD has started with a surprise: football Head Coach Josh Phillips announced Jan. 8 that he has accepted a defensive backs coaching position with Wagner College, an FCS-level NCAA school in Staten Island, New York. Phillips led the Sailors to a 1-10 record in his lone season with the school. 

It was not what Ivey expected, he said, but he's ready to meet the challenge of repairing the school's football program by making the right hire. Here's what Ivey had to say about his new position, the football program and his boys basketball program's strong start to the 2023-2024 season. 

Fresh ideas

Ivey, who took the school's boys basketball job in 2022, said there were no hesitations about accepting the job once it was offered to him. Despite having to juggle his time between his duties this year, Ivey has seen the impact he can have when spreading the basis of his coaching philosophy to other areas of the department. 

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 said his time with Florida Gulf Coast University in 2019-2020, where he served as the director of basketball operations, taught him a lot about how to run a school's athletics department. 

One example of a change Ivey wants to see: He wants the school to hire an experienced sports information director to handle the department's social media accounts — not just creating text posts, but making the content top-notch across the board, whether that means infographics, video clips or other means of communication. Ivey also wants to raise funds to improve the school's facilities and equipment. 

The goal of it all, Ivey said, is to create the best environment possible for the school's athletes to succeed. College-style programs tend to get the best out of the kids in them. 

"For me, it has always been about having a positive impact," Ivey said. "We are trying to build what we call a championship culture (with the basketball team). We're going to extend that into an entire department." 

Solving the gridiron issues

Ivey's first key hire will be a football coach. It will be an attempt to stabilize a program that has not had much success in recent decades. 

The Sailors' 30-20 road playoff win over Manatee High in 2022 was the program's first playoff win in 18 years; Sarasota Head Coach Brody Wiseman was let go by the school later that year and replaced by Phillips. 

Josh Phillips joined Sarasota High as head football coach in 2022.
Photo by Ryan Kohn

Ivey said applications for the positions have already arrived, though he's still determining a target date for when he would like to make the hire. In general, Ivey said, the school will be looking for someone who will be "transformative." 

"We want someone who will come in and change the culture," Ivey said. "Someone who is process-driven. We talk a lot about going 'brick by brick' here and how important it is to, every day, lay a brick with intention, so you can make small improvements daily."

Ivey said the ultimate goal of the program, like all Sarasota High programs, will be to set the standard in Sarasota County. Having that same goal will be critical in a new hire, he said. 

Boys basketball leads the way

Ivey's boys basketball team is showing that his ideas can work. Since taking over the program before the 2022-2023 season, Ivey has led the Sailors to a 32-8 overall record, 11-2 this season with 10 regular season games remaining as of Jan. 8. Those 32 wins are more than the program had in the previous four seasons combined (31). 

Daniel Munn (15) and the Sarasota High boys basketball team beat Jerry Olaince and Booker High on Jan. 26, 2023, for BJ Ivey's 301st win.
Photo by Ryan Kohn

Ivey said he is proud of the way his program has bought into the way he and his staff run things. 

"They listen and believe in what we're saying, and then they go implement it," Ivey said. "And it is someone different (stepping up) every night. One night (senior) Franklin Liriano will have a great game, then it's (senior) Mike Drayton, then it will be our freshman Johnny Lackaff or (junior) Oliver Boyle. We feel like we have five to six guys who can be in double figures, and our goal is to have four them in double figures each game. If we do that, we're going to score a lot and be hard to beat."

Ivey said he still wants his team learn how to play a full game, giving its best effort the entire time instead of relaxing a bit when it takes a sizable lead. He also would like to see a bit faster pace on the offensive end of the floor. Then come the things all coaches want to see out of their teams: more efficient passing and better shot selection, for instance. But overall, Ivey is thrilled with how far the program has come in a year and a half. 

"Winning (32) games in a year and a half, that's not an easy thing to do," Ivey said. "These kids are bought in. They work hard. It's incredible, in my mind. When you are process-driven and you say, 'Let's get better today,'  every game or practice becomes the most important game or practice. I think it is pretty impressive." 



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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