Former coach found dead


BURBANK ? What authorities believe is the body of former Burroughs High aquatics coach Rey Rivera was discovered Wednesday near his home in Baltimore.

News reports said Rivera, 32, who coached the Indian boys’ and girls’ water polo and swimming teams from 1998-01, was found after he was reported missing May 16 after leaving his home in Baltimore’s Northwood neighborhood.

His body was discovered inside the Belvedere Hotel and authorities said he appeared to have jumped from the roof of the Belvedere and crashed through a lower roof, reports said. His family found the man’s body while standing on a nearby garage. They spotted Rivera’s sandals on a Belvedere roof next to a large hole. The family investigated and discovered the body inside a conference room.

Rivera was a popular coach and teacher during his tenure at Burroughs. Those who knew him have fond memories of the strapping 6-foot-5, 260-pound man.

George Akopyan was an assistant coach under Rivera for two seasons at Burroughs. Akopyan said Rivera was not only a fine coach, but a great person, as well.

“I found out the news about Rey when one of our former players called me on the phone crying after finding out about his death,” Akopyan said. “I still can’t believe it.

“I learned so much about water polo because of Ray. He had the experience playing big-time water polo, and I’m just grateful I was able to learn from him.

“We became pretty good friends when I was at Burroughs. We would hang out, go places and we even went to a concert together.”

Akopyan said Rivera also had a profound influence on the athletes who played for him.

“I remember the players would sprint to the side of the pool during timeouts just to listen to what Rey had to say.” He said. “The kids really responded to him because they knew he knew what he was talking about.

“There are a lot of people who are really going to miss him.”

Rivera enjoyed a fine career in water polo as a player and coach. He was currently an assistant men’s coach at John Hopkins University.

Rivera was on a John Hopkins coaching staff that guided the Blue Jays to a winning season last year. Sophomore Sean McCreery was named the 2005 American Water Polo Coaches Assn. Division III Player of the Year and head Coach Ted Bresnahan was chosen as the Coach of the Year.

The Blue Jays ended their season ranked first in the Collegiate Water Polo Assn. Division III poll with a 24-6 record and an undefeated mark against Division III teams.

Rivera came to Burroughs in 1998 after playing professionally in Spain in the Royal Federation of Water Polo league. He was also a collegiate standout at the University of the Pacific, graduating in 1995.

One of his most successful seasons came in 2000 with the Indian girls’ team. He helped lead the squad to a 25-6 record, a second-place finish in the Almont League behind No. 1-ranked Bell Gardens and a berth into the CIF Southern Section Division III semifinal. In the semifinal, Burroughs fell to No. 2 Harvard-Westlake, 14-8.

He also enjoyed success with the Burroughs boys’ team.

In 1998, led by All-CIF player Jason Falitz, the Indians went 17-9 and advanced to the Division III semifinals, losing to Santa Monica, 11-6.

A year later, Burroughs put together a 23-5 season and made it to the quarterfinals, falling to Crescenta Valley, 10-9.FILE PHOTO(LA)Rey Rivera served as boys’ and girls’ water polo and swimming coach at Burroughs from 1998-01. He led both polo teams to semifinal playoff berths.blr.rivera.27-BPhotoInfoRL1RD64G20060527izwgdlnc(LA)