On a beautiful Sunday in May, more than 100 members of the Solebury School community gathered for an alumni basketball game and celebratory luncheon to honor a very special coach. After 39 years and well over 500 wins, coach Cleve Christie is retiring.
Christie first came to Solebury to coach basketball in early 1983 and joined the team mid-season. A project manager for the Trenton Housing Authority and organizer of several summer basketball leagues, Christie had a knack for finding and nurturing talent. By early 1987, the Philadelphia Inquirer called Solebury “perhaps the best-kept basketball secret in Southeastern Pennsylvania” in an article that profiled the team’s success. In 2008, Christie celebrated 400 wins as Solebury’s head basketball coach, with 500 coming in 2018.
“I bleed blue,” said Christie as he explained his love of Solebury School. “Solebury gives these kids a quality education. It jump-starts their life. I am so proud of the players I have coached and of our program. Everywhere I go with the team, we see alums who recognize our jerseys, and they are proud of our team too.”
“There’s a lot we can say about Cleve just as a human being and as an individual,” shares Keith Pinckney ’87, captain of the basketball team from 1985-1987. “He was a great coach and wanted you to go as far as you could in basketball if that was what you desired. But he mainly wanted you to be somebody [who is] productive in society. He wanted to make sure that you contributed, got an education, and helped others. He knew that the world was much harder than we thought it was at 15. He gave us the tools to become men.”
Ask any of Christie’s players over the last four decades and you will hear this sentiment repeated. Christie has a holistic approach to his players; he wants them to succeed in the game and in life.
“It’s not all about basketball,” Christie explained. “First and foremost, it is about educating the child, educating the whole child. You aren’t special because you play basketball. You are special because you work hard in three areas: on the court, in the classroom and in the community.” And as a result, 99% of his players have gone on to four-year colleges. “Five hundred wins is nothing compared to the number of my players who now have a college degree and are professional people. We have launched great professionals here.”
In the coach’s final season the Spartans had an excellent season and won the Penn Jersey Athletic Association Championship. “It’s a nice finishing touch for the Solebury basketball team who put in the work and got a chance to see and enjoy the fruit of their labor,” Christie said. “I’m so proud of each and every member of this team. We put in the time and hard work to make this all possible. I’m very thankful to all who supported us.”
Christie’s impact goes beyond the students. “I have had the honor of working with Cleve for the past 10 years, and my favorite moments come from sitting on the sideline of the home game with him,” shared Athletic Director Stacie Anastasio. “He waits for the moments I yell in excitement or frustration, and he always has a comedic comment to add. He truly cares about his athletes and everyone he works with, never missing a holiday to check in with you.”
There are so many numbers that can be attributed to Christie as proof of his success – nearly 40 years, more than 500 wins, mentoring hundreds of athletes through Solebury’s basketball program, and seeing eight names added to the 1,000-point scorer banner in the Athletic Center. But it’s his dedication to each individual athlete and their success that makes it tough to imagine Solebury School basketball without Christie.