After nearly a decade and a half on the sidelines, Fontbonne Hall Academy, Bay Ridge, head varsity basketball coach Steve Oliver is putting down the clipboard and hanging up the whistle for good.
He ends his coaching tenure on a high note, having guided the Bonnies to an appearance in the GCHSAA Tier 2 diocesan championship game while winning Brooklyn-Queens Coach of the Year honors in the process.
In his 14 seasons, Oliver tallied 225 wins to go along with two diocesan championships and a city title crown in 2010. Though he will be a familiar face in the stands during Fontbonne games, he will now be able to focus more of his time on operating the two restaurants he owns in Bay Ridge: Pipin’s and Chadwick’s.
Oliver was a three-sport star growing up in Bay Ridge at St. Patrick’s parish. He played Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball and baseball for St. Patrick’s and played Pop Warner football as a quarterback.
Even though he was a standout pitcher in the Gil Hodges league, he decided to attend Xavier H.S., Manhattan, which did not field a baseball team. He played basketball there before heading to St. John’s University, Staten Island, to earn his associate’s degree.
While working for his father at Pipin’s, Oliver attended the New York Institute of Technology in Brooklyn to receive his certification in hotel and restaurant management. In 1987, he opened Chadwick’s and continues to run both restaurants to this day.
When his oldest son, Stephen, broke into the CYO basketball ranks for St. Anselm, Bay Ridge, Oliver coached for four years. Stephen went on to play at Xavier and then at the College of Mount St. Vincent, the Bronx.
Oliver’s two daughters, Jillian and Kate, also showed lots of hoops promise. His wife, Laurie, coached the girls throughout their youth basketball at St. Anselm, and it just so happened that a coaching opening at Fontbonne was available right as Jillian would be an incoming freshman in 2007.
Fontbonne’s athletic director at the time, Donna Schirripa, knew Oliver from the neighborhood and reached out about the coaching vacancy. At first, Oliver was a bit hesitant to coach his daughter, since he did not want any unnecessary pressure on her – especially as she adjusted to a new school.
“I told Donna I want to be in the sixth row with a cup of coffee in my hand watching my daughter play high school ball,” Oliver said.
Yet once he heard Jillian was on board with him coaching, he accepted the position. By 2009, he jumped up to the varsity coaching ranks. Meanwhile, when his daughter Kate entered Fontbonne as a freshman in 2010, Oliver had the thrill of coaching both of his daughters on the varsity squad.
Even after Kate graduated in 2014, Oliver stayed on as Fontbonne’s coach for another eight seasons – despite the time commitment taken up by running his two restaurants. Through it all, he was able to find a way to make it work and continue his coaching passion.
“I never coached to coach my own children in high school,” he said. “I honestly love coaching the game, even with working as a restauranteur.”
At the conclusion of the past few seasons, Oliver was admittedly exhausted. Each year he assessed his next move, and each time he arrived back at giving coaching at least one more year. The shortened COVID-19 pandemic year of 2020-2021 had him thinking even more about retirement prior to this past season.
The Bonnies’ basketball program is certainly in good hands moving forward. Oliver’s longtime assistant coach Mike Sammon is taking over as varsity head coach, while GCHSAA Hall of Famer Bob Atanasio remains on staff as the primary assistant. Also joining the fold as an assistant is Brooklyn native Brittany McDonough, who played at Goldstein H.S., Manhattan Beach, before heading to Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia.
Oliver knows he’ll miss the hustle and bustle of the basketball season, especially the travel trips the team would take every year, which were great for team bonding.
“I’ll miss the excitement in mid-summer hearing who is coming to the school and the excitement about who is joining us as an eighth grader,” he said. “The fresh excitement after a break from March to September gets those juices flowing again and looking forward to another season.”
Though he said he may get back into coaching someday after semi-retiring from his restaurant businesses, for now he’ll still be a presence at Fontbonne helping with the coaching transition process.
“I know I’ll be behind the bench or up in the stands missing it for sure, but I still feel comfortable with my decision,” Oliver said.
Over the years, Oliver took pride in hearing from his former players about the impact he had on their young lives at such a meaningful time. He also preached the value of commitment, whether that was on the basketball court or in any facet of life. Wins and losses aside, that’s how he will truly be remembered.
“Just hearing that, it made the ups and downs of coaching – especially the downs – so much more joyful,” he said.
All the best to Coach Oliver as he embarks on the next chapter of his life’s journey.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.