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DJ Gay leaving La Jolla Country Day School; national search is underway for new basketball coach

DJ Gay is pictured during his playing days at San Diego State University.
(File)

After just two years, La Jolla Country Day School basketball coach DJ Gay is moving on to another school, and Country Day has embarked on a national search for a replacement.

In a note to the school community, Gay stated that “after long consideration” he had decided to return to his native Los Angeles to become the head coach at the private Windward School.

“This was not an easy decision, but it’s what’s best for my family,” Gay wrote. “A chance to coach 20 minutes from my childhood home and to have my kids grow up around their grandparents was just too good to pass up.

“My last two years at LJCDS have been nothing short of amazing. We as a program have been able to accomplish so much in just a short amount of time.”

LJCDS Athletic Director Jeff Hutzler said “although disappointed to lose DJ, and the timing was far from optimal, we are happy for him and his family.”

Assistant coach Mike Riccuti has been promoted to interim head coach for the upcoming season while the private school looks for a permanent replacement for Gay.

“Mike is an excellent coach, well-respected by our players and their families, and will afford us continuity in coaching and system this offseason and winter,” Hutzler said.

The school intends to have a permanent coach in place for the 2023-24 season.

In Country Day’s coach search two years ago, after which the school chose Gay, there were more than 80 applicants from across the country.

“A chance to coach 20 minutes from my childhood home and to have my kids grow up around their grandparents was just too good to pass up.”

— DJ Gay

Gay, a former San Diego State University point guard, was hired in May 2020 to replace Ryan Meier, who resigned after 14 seasons.

The COVID-19 pandemic made for a rough first year. Speaking with the La Jolla Light ahead of the 2021 season, Gay said: “With COVID protocols, we were going to have games and then not, we were going to have a season, then we weren’t. But that year allowed me to establish where I want this program to go. I set expectations and team policies early and the kids know I’m going to hold them to those expectations, which has been huge. It’s about building a culture that is all about brotherhood, toughness, competing, being great young men off and on the court.”

During the 2021-22 basketball season, the Torreys compiled a 19-11 record and advanced to the CIF San Diego Section Division I boys championship game before losing to Carlsbad.

“To all of the student-athletes, thank you for all the effort and pride you have put into the program over the past two years,” Gay wrote. “I’m confident that you will continue to support the program as it gets ready to make another CIF title run. This is not an easy goodbye for me or the Gay family. LJCDS will always be a special place to me.”

The Torreys play in the tough Coastal League, which also includes Foothills Christian, Francis Parker, Santa Fe Christian, Army-Navy, Orange Glen and La Jolla’s The Bishop’s School. ◆