Spread out over a 125 acre campus in a tiny central Florida town with less than 900 people, Montverde Academy doesn’t look like a normal school. That is because it isn’t. From pre-k to 12th grade which accommodates 1,200 students, the school and campus is picturesque. Once known for only it’s academics, the boarding school, which costs $49,000 per year, is The Royal High School of schools.
In 2011, a hiring was made in the athletic department that put basketball on par with the superb academic reputation the school has rightfully achieved. The hire made waves across the high school basketball landscape and changed many people’s perceptions on what lengths non-public schools will pay to have a winning program.
The man who was hired to take over the basketball program was Kevin Boyle. A New Jersey native, Boyle left the Garden State and headed 1000 miles south to Montverde. Boyle made his name known 2 decades earlier at Saint Patrick’s High School in Elizabeth, New Jersey. His teams won and they won often. NBA players Kyrie Irving, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Samuel Dalembert are just 3 of the dozens of Division 1 players he helped mold at Saint Patrick’s. Boyle won 2 National Coach of the Year Awards during his time there as well as numerous state titles.
Boyle is as fiery a coach now as he was when he was the point guard at Division 1 Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City, New Jersey. The 53-year old with a reputation for being controversial and outspoken was now in charge of leading a basketball program with the elite academic reputation.
In 2010, Boyle’s Saint Patrick’s team with Kyrie Irving as its leader was declared ineligible for postseason play as they violated state regulations when Boyle attended and was involved in unsanctioned off-season workouts. Many say it was a witch-hunt that drew the ire of Boyle.
There were questions on just how the coaching move would work out. How would he conduct himself in the sunshine state? Would his reputation carry over from New Jersey to Florida? Would he possibly put his program in jeopardy by getting into trouble with the Florida high school sports commission? So far, so good.
While the move of leaving a premier basketball program such as St. Patrick’s was stunning, the tiny catholic school paid very little. The terms of Boyle’s new deal was something Division 2 and 3 coaches would salivate over. Kevin Boyle, high school basketball coach, received a contract that pays him roughly $130,000 per year, which is currently more than three Division 1 head coaches.
He also received a car and a house, all paid for by Montverde Academy as part of the terms in his contract. In addition to coaching, the 53-year old is the Director of the Booster Club at the school. This deal is the first of any kind in high school basketball and has not been duplicated yet.
“BUILDING AN ELITE PROGRAM”
Within a couple minutes, Boyle can walk from his house and into the gorgeous and brand new $6.5-million dollar multi-purpose athletic facility on the MVA campus. Before Boyle came to the Florida school, MVA was a good program. However, with the resources and money flowing into the school by donors and others, being good wasn’t good enough.
Recruiting in high school basketball is not a secret. The high school basketball powers to be have not gotten a grip on how to combat players changing high school after high school for the sole benefit of boosting a player’s athletic profile. Each state has their own rules for players who change schools. However, it is extremely difficult for each states governing body to catch a player who is switching schools just for athletics. Schools, coaches, and players of all sports use this to their advantage all across America.
This tremendously benefits non-public schools and especially a school like Montverde Academy. Players from numerous states are routinely on their roster each year after transferring from their previous high school. Ben Simmons made his way to Florida via Australia.
What Kevin Boyle has done since he got to MVA is exactly what he was paid to do. Win basketball games. From 2012-2015, the “Eagles” won 3 straight national championships. Stars such as D’Angelo Russell and Ben Simmons headlined those teams. Russell was the #2 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and Simmons went #1 overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. Dozens of “Eagles” have parlayed their MVA education and athletic ability into full Division 1 scholarships. The “Eagles” are now the standard of excellence in the ever increasing cut-throat world of big time high school basketball.
“HIGH SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIPS?”
Fans of high school basketball ask this question repeatedly. “How can student-athletes and their families afford a school that costs $49,000 per year?” Montverde Academy implies it doesn’t give full scholarships to its student-athletes based on ability or talent. Students can apply for financial aid. How much financial aid is a question we can’t answer. The only people who can answer this question are the families and the school administrations.
“WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?”
Kevin Boyle is already a 4-time National Coach of the Year. He has won 3 national high school basketball titles. He is only 53-years old. Will a Division 1 school take the chance on a high school coach? He has reportedly interviewed for Division 1 head coaching jobs in the past. Will he jump at the opportunity should the situation arise?
Whatever happens in his basketball future remains to be seen. He was brought in to bring national prominence to a school which desperately wanted to become a big-time player in the sport. He accomplished that.
In 2011, Montverde Academy broke the standard of high school athletics, for better or for worse. The next question will be “Which is the next school to offer a coach the same contract?” Is the precedent that Montverde set good for high school sports? That is up for debate and everybody will surely have their own opinion. However, Montverde Academy got exactly what they wanted. They are unequivocally, “The Royal High School” of basketball.
🔴Originally published October 2016