Longtime Batavia Coach Jim Roberts Steps Down
Jim Roberts reflects on his 27 years heading the BHS boys basketball program. Students and coaches also share what he’s done for Batavia.
Another lengthy coaching career at Batavia High School has come to a close.
Jim Roberts has resigned as head basketball coach, he and the school announced Monday. He cited family health concerns and a desire to be at home more.
After 27 years, he’s the winningest coach in Batavia High School history with 455 victories.
“We’re at peace with it,” Roberts, 54, said of he and his family’s decision. “We feel very fortunate.”
Roberts will remain on the high-school staff as a physical education teacher. His wife Sylvia teaches in the West Aurora School District. Roberts told Batavia Patch he was OK healthwise but declined to elaborate further.
He leaves behind a legacy that includes nine regional championships, two sectional titles and an Elite Eight state-qualifying appearance in Champaign in 1991. He was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame last year.
Roberts has nothing but gratitude towards the players, assistant coaches, the student body and the larger community who supported him throughout his years as coach.
“We really thank them from the bottom of our hearts,” he said.
News of Roberts’ stepping down came as a surprise to players and colleagues. Mike Gaspari, Batavia’s former football coach and athletic director, said he respects Roberts’ decision and wishes him well.
“It’s a big transition," Gaspari said, himself having stepped down from a head coaching position in 2010. “I just want to Jim to be happy, it’s the most important thing.”
There is no set timeline yet for finding a new basketball coach, said Dave Andrews, Batavia High School athletic director. The position will be posted and the school will begin interviews once they have a good candidate pool.
Tradition Was Key
Roberts always wanted his players to remember those that came before them.
“He always stressed tradition, and how they did things,” said senior Cole Gardner, who played for Roberts again this year as a center forward. “We wouldn’t be able to succeed without them just being good people.”
Gardner said he never felt pressure to live up to Batavia’s past years of success. He just knew that if he put everything he had into the games, then Roberts would be satisfied.
Roberts insists he was just trying to emulate the success of past Batavia coaches such as Don VanDerSnick (1964-70) and Joe Yagel (1970-82), the latter of whom he played for and who ultimately hired him.
“We had players who realized it was a special time in their lives and worked very hard,” Roberts said.
The Coach's Challenges
Gaspari said Roberts was like his players and also gave 110 percent.
“All the coaches at the high school work hard, but Roberts works the hardest,” he said.
Gaspari and Roberts were both at Batavia prior to 1985, but that was the year the two of them took on the mantle of head coach for their sports. They were tasked with turning the fledging football and basketball programs around.
The two coaches helped each other through the low points in their programs. Roberts stuck it out, even in the toughest of times.
“He treated everybody with dignity and respect,” Gaspari said. “He never blamed an official for a loss. We absorb those as head coaches and adults. When the team won it was about the players, and when we lost it was about us and it was on us.”
Roberts attributes his dedication to being a Batavia native. He also had good people influence and help him along the way, such as his father and also John McDougal, a former West Aurora and Northern Illinois University coach.
“You just try to keep your nose to the grindstone, I guess,” Roberts said.
Making An Impact
In the end, Roberts helped grow an already-stellar program. One of his many achievements was creating the Night of Hoops annual event, which featured key matchups with top teams from the state.
Gardner said Roberts put so much time into Night of Hoops, always calling schools to see who could participate and sometimes working two years in advance for the event.
Night of Hoops was also Roberts’ opportunity to give back and honor other coaches, Gaspari said. He remembers when Roberts brought back Dick Van Scyoc, a legendary coach for Manual High School’s powerhouse basketball team in Peoria, IL up until the early 1990s.
“He was always really good about that, making sure that people got recognition,” Gaspari said.
Roberts himself didn’t want to single out any particular seasons or events, instead saying that he was blessed with many great memories.
“We tell our players it’s an honor and privilege to play here, but in reality, it’s been our honor and privilege to coach here,” Roberts said.
For more local sports news, go to batavia.patch.com/sports.