Bob Oliva has won a lot of games in his 22 years as head coach of the Christ the King varsity boys’ basketball team, but few have measured up to his Royals’ 17-point win over St. Raymond’s in the CHSAA Division I state championship game.
It was a game some thought shouldn’t have happened — St. Ray’s beat CK in the city title days earlier, only to have to do it again thanks to a new format in the state tourney — but it was a game Oliva knew his team could win.
“Surprising,” Oliva said of the win. “I don’t think anybody expected us to win by 17 points, to be up 20 most of the way. The game was really over, technically when you think about it, at halftime. There were inclinations prior to that that led me to believe that we were going to either beat them or be right in there with them.
“I always thought we matched up well against them,” he added. “No disrespect to them; they have a very, very good team. I liked our chances against them, and it proved me right that we were better than they were. When it came down to it the second time around when we took the mulligan, we hit it straight down the fairway.”
Christ the King finished the season with a 26-8 record, including the Brooklyn/Queens Diocesan and CHSAA state titles. Only one other team, the 1989-90 club, had more wins.
It was a season that saw a well-rounded Christ the King team, featuring Mitchell Beauford, Chris Martin, Japhet McNeil, Justin Marshall and Brian Williams, a group Oliva truly enjoyed coaching.
“It was one of the better ones,” the coach said about the season. “It was an enjoyable season because the kids made it that way. We’ve had years when we had a lot of wins and a lot of championships. This was one of them.”
Oliva has been at CK for 25 years, with the first three spent coaching the varsity. But he got his start as a coach in CYO while still a teenager. After 41 seasons, Oliva won’t swear to stick around long, but he may have a hard time pulling away.
“Day to day, year to year,” Oliva said. “I love being around the kids and all and I like it here, but I’ve been coaching for 41 years. I really don’t know what I’d do without it, but I got other things, too.”
At 57, Oliva still has some years left in him. And Christ the King should be thankful about it.