AURORA | The succession plan for Ibn Shabazz happened just as planned.
Connected with Ian Calvert since his playing days in the mid-2000s at Montbello, Shabazz joined Calvert’s Gateway boys basketball coaching staff as an assistant and junior varsity head coach with the expectation he would take over the program in the future.
It took just two seasons for that to happen, as Shabazz was officially hired Friday to follow Calvert, who recently stepped down after leading the Olys to a 25-22 record in two campaigns, which included a trip to the Class 5A state playoffs in 2019.
“Ian let me know coming it he was going to do it for a couple of years and he was really priming Ibn to take over,” said Gateway athletic director Brandon Netherton, who officially hired Shabazz on Friday. “I’ve gotten to know Ibn over the last two years and I really like what he does for the community.
“I would trust my kid with him.”
Netherton said he still opened the job, but eventually determined that hiring Shabazz was the best way to continue the current momentum of the program, which has produced back-to-back seasons with double-digit wins and has a recent playoff appearance after a drought that lasted nearly a decade following the retirement of Jeff Sweet.
Since the successful Sweet (who racked up 321 wins with the Olys) departed in 2010-11 — Gateway dedicated its newly-refurbished court to him in February — Shabazz follows Calvert, Jason Dixon, Michael Corrado and Ernest Jones to the bench.
“I’m very excited; the past couple of years at Gateway have been huge,” said Shabazz, who has club coaching experience with the Colorado Hawks and has served as an assistant in the past at DSST-Green Valley Ranch.
“Just being able to be with these guys and try to build is going to be fun,” he added.
Calvert — a longtime coach at Aurora Central previously who told Netherton he stepped down to spend more time with his family, while his brother, Taylor, was also let go recently as Gateway’s football coach — is eager to see what Shabazz will do with the job.
“I am really proud of him,” Calvert said of Shabazz. “He played for me 14 years ago at Montbello and now he gets to take over for me at Gateway. That was always the plan. I brought in a coach with aspirations to become the guy. He proved that he is capable and on his way to building a program that can build on the success of the past two years.
“Gateway basketball is lucky to have him.”
Shabazz is eager to work with the talent that is expected back as only three varsity players depart to graduation, though that group includes two double-digit scores in Maliq Alford and DJ Wilson.
He does have back senior-to-be Antwuan Smith — the team’s lone All-EMAC first team selection — along with second team honoree Erick Covington, who was the only Aurora boys basketball player to average double-digit rebounds this season (10.0 rpg).
“To be honest, I want college to be a reality for all of these guys; whether it be basketball related or not, I want to motivate these guys to want to go school after they graduate,” Shabazz said. “When it comes to Xs and Os, I’m a realist. I know what I have. With my ability and what we have going, I think we can get 15-17 wins. That’s my goal.
“I think Ian has set us up for success in many ways and he’s been telling me a lot when it comes to Xs and Os, structure and presenting something to these guys.”
Shabazz is eager to get to work, but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made that much more challenging. Nothing is currently set in terms of a return to normalcy for any sport, even one that doesn’t start until November.
“It impacts my plan a ton, however, I think it has more to do with time,” Shabazz said. “I’ll still be able to reach out to the fellas and try to get training in and set up camps, it will be just be time crunched.”
Netherton, who hired Robb Wetta as the school’s new head football coach in January, has one more hire to make before the next athletic season as the school is still in search of a head wrestling coach.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports