AVON — Johnny Bley has spent his career teaching young athletes how to play sports.
Bley, 61, enjoys coaching all sports, especially basketball, which is why he said he was so delighted when he was recently named the head coach of the Riverside High School girls basketball team. Bley has previously coached at Simmons High School, St. Joseph Catholic School and Greenville Christian School.
“Basketball is one of my favorite sports to coach,” Bley said. “It starts where they can’t even dribble, and then they learn how to control the ball. They start out not being able to shoot, but when one finally goes swish their eyes light up and that is when the excitement begins.”
Bley, who was also recently named the defensive coordinator on the football team, said he is under no illusion that building a championship program will be easy. Bley inherits a Riverside program from Denise Tyler. Under Coach Tyler’s reign, Riverside was consistently one of the best girls basketball teams in Washington County. However, the Leland Lady Cubs play in the same district as the Lady Bulldogs, and they have had a strangle hold over the district championship in recent years.
Tyler is now the athletic director at South Delta High School.
“If you are going to be the best, you are going to have to beat the best,” Bley said of his team’s chances against the Lady Cubs. “We are going to give it everything we have.”
Riverside finished 17-7 last season under Tyler, and a number of the best players on last year’s team have graduated, including Amiyah Staples and Kewanna Stewart.
Bley said he expects the returning players on next season’s squad, including rising star Shakera Stewart, to continue the tradition of winning in Avon.
“This year may be somewhat of a rebuilding year because we only have five high school girls on the team right now,” Bley said.
Bley said he is also looking forward to working with assistant coach Emily Johnson.
“I am looking forward to working with someone who is so excited and committed to the girls,” Bley said.