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Weber State hires veteran coach Leonard Perry to men’s basketball staff

Perry joins Wildcats with 30 years of experience; roster updates

By BRETT HEIN - Standard-Examiner | Jun 18, 2024

Ringo H.W. Chiu, Associated Press

Pacific head coach Leonard Perry directs his players during a game against USC on Feb. 8, 2022, in Los Angeles.

Weber State men's basketball head coach Eric Duft has completed his coaching staff with the hire of Leonard Perry, a former Division I head coach and Big Sky player with 30 years of coaching experience.

Perry was recently the head coach at Pacific for three seasons; he was relieved of his duties in March. Perry was also head coach at Idaho, his alma mater, from 2001-06.

"I am ecstatic in welcoming Leonard Perry to our Weber State basketball family and can't wait to get him on the court and recruiting trail," Duft told the Standard-Examiner. "Coach Perry brings so much experience to our team and our players are excited for him to join us. He cut down a lot of nets as an assistant coach and knows what championship programs are about.

"In addition, and most importantly, he is a great person and role model that will invest in our players and help them reach their goals in basketball and life."

Perry replaces five-year assistant coach Eric Daniels, who left Weber State for an assistant spot at Utah State. Dan Russell and Jorge Ruiz return for their third seasons on Duft's bench.

CONNER BECKER, Standard-Examiner

Weber State forward Nigel Burris, rear, shoots a jumper over Dyson Koehler during a workout June 13, 2024, at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.

Perry, 56, is a native of Dallas, Texas, with eight years of Division I head coaching experience, 16 more as a DI assistant, and five years in the NBA.

"This is a great opportunity to be part of a program that is invested in winning," Perry said. "Its location and what this university's put behind its program, its alumni, what Randy Rahe did -- I can go all the way back to (Ron) Abbeglen, Joe Cravens, I've known a lot of those guys, they've had great coaches throughout.

"I remember the Eddie Gills and the Harold Arceneauxs, (Joel) Bolomboy, of course Dame Lillard. This program has a tremendous history, all the way up to Dillon Jones. They've done a ton of winning and to be part of it is a special opportunity."

Perry said he hopes to use his depth of experience to help Weber State win championships.

"I've had every role there is to have, and seen a lot of basketball and a lot of different coaches," he said. "I want to be a resource, a sounding board for this staff. Coach Duft has a really good group of young guys on the staff."

Young Kwak, Associated Press

Pacific head coach Leonard Perry, right, speaks with guard Pierre Crockrell II during a game against Gonzaga on Feb. 10, 2022, in Spokane, Wash.

Perry finished his college playing career at the University of Idaho. He started at point guard there for two seasons as the Vandals went 24-8 in the Big Sky, won one league title and played in the 1990 NCAA Tournament.

After spending time in the arena this month, he vividly recalls his 1990 trip to the Dee Events Center, a key for what became Idaho's last trip to the Big Dance.

"I remember getting my butt beat," he said of a 74-57 defeat against WSU in what was otherwise a 13-3 league campaign. "It really made us lock in and refocus. I still don't like thinking about it, but this is not an easy place to play."

His last season playing at Idaho was Larry Eustachy's first as head coach, and the two reunited four years later at Utah State with Eustachy as head coach and Perry as an assistant. They ended USU's 10-year NCAA Tournament drought before moving on to Iowa State. With Perry as associate head coach for two seasons, the Cyclones totaled a 57-11 record, went to the Elite Eight and finished ranked in the top 10 twice.

The pair later reunited at Southern Miss (where Perry coached 2011-12, a season in which Southern Miss ended a 21-year NCAA Tournament drought) and at Colorado State (where Perry was from 2012-16).

"What I know to be true from all of that is if you get a team that's tough, will defend and will rebound, you can win a conference championship," Perry said. "I'll take that to my grave; we did it at all four schools."

After his stint at Iowa State, Idaho brought back its alumnus for his first head coaching job in 2001, which made Perry one of the youngest, if not the youngest head coach in Division I at the time.

After his five seasons ended at his alma mater, the Indiana Pacers hired Perry as an assistant coach. He worked as a coach and then a scout for the NBA club for five years.

"I got to learn from Donnie Walsh, Larry Bird, from Rick Carlisle, so it was just an incredible time," he said. "You get to learn how the best minds in basketball work and the approach they give the game, and how you've got to respect what you're doing from the ground up."

His next stop was his first and only season at Southern Miss, and Eustachy's eighth. The next season, both were off to Colorado State.

Perry was at CSU for four seasons until Damon Stoudamire hired him away to be associate head coach at Pacific from 2016-21. Perry was promoted when Stoudamire left for an NBA assistant job and the Tigers set up some success in the WCC with Keylan Boone and Jordan Ivy-Curry leading the squad.

But NIL opportunities took Boone to UNLV (he's a likely candidate for BYU's final roster spot this upcoming season) and Ivy-Curry to UTSA (he has since moved on to Central Florida after averaging 17 points per game). With sharpshooter Luke Avdalovic also gone to graduation, the wheels fell off for Perry's Tigers, who went 0-16 in the WCC this past season.

"There were some challenges and this last year was definitely not the best year," Perry said. "You've got to have a tremendous staff and really good players, borderline pros, which we had that second year. We were on the cusp of a really great season."

He's seeing good things at Weber State in his short time in town.

"I've seen really good leadership, guys are serious about winning, they put the time in," Perry said. "I'm excited about what Coach Duft has put together. Losing a bonafide NBA player like Dillon Jones, I think the new pieces the staff has brought in are going to be good."

While sophomores Viljami Vartiainen (Finland) and Marko Sarenac (Serbia) are home playing for their national teams, nine scholarship players have been on campus for the current workout period.

Blaise Threatt and Dyson Koehler help lead the way as returning seniors, with center Alex Tew rehabbing a knee injury that plagued his production last season. Transfers Miguel Tomley and Vasilije Vucinic have earned high marks for their work so far, while Utah State transfer Nigel Burris is as capable as expected. Freshman point guard Saadiq Moore has already shown strong potential to be a contributor.

Freshmen Declan Cutler (visa clearance) and Trevor Hennig (Washington's late high school calendar) will join the team in July.

Ogden High alum Niyol Hauet will join the team as a walk-on. Freshman Logan Kilbert, one of California's top scorers (3,334 career points) has committed as a walk-on, and transfer guard Andrew Younan has joined the Wildcats as a walk-on after two seasons at Portland.

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