Perry will continue building Pacific men’s basketball program

Leonard Perry

Leonard Perry is the 23rd head men's basketball coach at University of the Pacific.

Leonard Perry’s first game as head men’s basketball coach at University of the Pacific will be Nov. 10 in the Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Rest assured he is not on vacation. Perry has been busy hiring a coaching staff, recruiting and putting his imprint on the program he helped revive with former Pacific head coach and NBA standout Damon Stoudamire, now an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics.

In an interview, Perry reflects on the opportunities and challenges ahead, his coaching philosophy and what Tiger fans should expect in his first season. 

Why are University of the Pacific and Leonard Perry the right fit?

Perry: The guy I came here for, Damon Stoudamire, and the work that we did together to help build the program, brick by brick, is one reason. We stayed with it and I’m ready to carry it on. Athletics Director Janet Lucas came in and she has been so great for the entire athletic program. And now we have President (Christopher) Callahan doing so many things. Everyone and everything has aligned to make this the right fit.

Describe your coaching philosophy.

Perry: Having done this before (as head coach at University of Idaho), I learned a lot. I was a young coach at that time, and I grew. I love to be associated with young men who are serious about their academic progress. That is the most important factor. They must be extremely serious about wanting to walk across the stage after two or four years to get their diploma. On the court, the key is consistency. We have to work hard and remain consistent in everything we do.

What should University of the Pacific fans expect in terms of style of play under your leadership?

Perry: We are going to take care of the basketball. We are going to play fast, as fast as our talent will take us. We will be challenged height wise, but we are working on depth in recruiting. We could have some size coming in. We are going to accentuate the talents of these young men.

How will you coach?

Perry: We will compete at a high level every night. We will do our best to become a strong rebounding team. The major difference is we will run (fast break) more. We will look to get more cheap baskets from defensive deflections and loose balls. We are going to play faster and we need more baskets in transition before our opponents can set up their half-court defense.

The West Coast Conference is tough. What will it take to get past league powerhouses Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and Brigham Young to compete for an NCAA berth?

Perry: You are going to pay a price if you don’t put in the work each day. This league is so tough and you’re swimming with great white sharks. Every year, we have three programs that start out in the Top 25. Then you have up-and-coming teams with great coaching. If you skip a day of work in terms of getting better, you are going to put yourself behind the eight ball. Everyone must buy in and there cannot be any resistance about how hard you have to work.

You went from being fired by your alma mater to working for the Indiana Pacers and Larry Bird in a one-week period. How did that transpire?

Perry: I was fired by Idaho, on a Monday I think. I got a call from my mentor, Coach Larry Eustachy, who said, “I think you belong in the NBA.”… He made a call to Donnie Walsh, who was kind of the Godfather of NBA general managers. That set in motion an amazing few days where I went out to meet with Walsh, Larry Bird, (then Indiana Pacers coach) Rick Carlisle and others. It all worked out and they offered me a contract. I went from being fired by Idaho to flying on Larry Bird’s private jet and getting hired by the Pacers (where he worked as assistant coach and scouting director for six years).

You serve on Pacific’s University Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and you were a member of the Vice President for DEI search committee. Describe the importance of racial and social justice issues to you.

Perry: There is no way I will give up any of this work. I serve on committees and search panels and I’m a Title IX hearing officer with Liz Trayner. This work makes me who I am. I love being a part of something bigger than I am. This is the path that I walk, and I do so proudly. And others walked it for me. I’m not the first.

You and Christina (wife) have had many coaching stops during your 30-plus years in the sport. Tell us about your family.

Perry: Christina and I have two daughters, Keisha and Kayla, and a son, Justin, who will attend Pacific this fall. I also have a son, Leonard III, and a daughter Camitri. We will be out there supporting Stockton and plan to be here for a long time. The people who work here make Pacific special. We absolutely love it here.

What is your message to Pacific fans?

Perry: We are going to have fun. These student-athletes will compete very hard for this community. If you come out and support us, we can turn this into something special.

Let’s do a little rapid response:

·        What is your favorite movie: “It’s Complicated”

·        Favorite television series: “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”

·        What do you drive? Ford Expedition

·        Hobbies or other interests: “Acting … I go to Universal Studios once a year hoping to be discovered.”

·        Your go-to restaurant in Stockton: Wing Stop

·        Your favorite spot on campus: The Janet Leigh Theater