ed note: LLhoops.com gets a feature interview with Coach Rick Perez of Reading HS. Andy Herr connected with Coach Perez during the season via twitter. We interviewed him after the Harrisburg game (6A semis for District 3) in Hershey – Coach Perez talked about the future and that the Knights still had some goals to accomplish. All true as the Reading Knights won the 6A PIAA championship on the same floor a few weeks later. Andy grabbed an interview after that game as well. Great insights to a traditional power in HS hoops. BTW- check out the “R”. Enjoy!
1: Has it hit you yet, or can you even fathom the honor of being named the 6A Coach of the Year in a basketball-rich state like Pennsylvania?
- It has not hit me. I think over time it will begin to take effect, but I strongly believe that this is just a step in whatever process myself, our coaches, players, families and the city of Reading R heading in. As soon as the buzzer sounded at Hershey, my first thought was….we have lots of work to do going into next season. As I walked thru the line shaking hands I was already working out our rotation. I often joke with friends and family that when I turn 70 I will be sure to begin bragging about it then…I’ll be that old guy telling the same war stories over and over again.
2: The ceremonies and appearances that have been set up for you guys by the community since the state title have been nothing short of awesome. Obviously you want to savor the moment and appreciate just how special that accomplishment is. As a competitor however, is there ever a point where you have to say, yes that was an incredible ride, but now it’s time to put that in the rear view mirror and go full focus onto 2017-18?
- The City of Reading has been awesome. The support has been unreal. We completely understand that the ceremonies and celebrations R necessary, they R a time for us to all get together and celebrate…which is important in our community. I look at these celebrations as not only to celebrate our success, but our presence at these events is our way to say thank you. That is why we R not shy when it comes to giving hugs, sharing smiles, and genuinely enjoying people for all the love they have shown. But you R correct, as a competitor, we R ready to focus on 2017-2018. Our staff and players have done a good job putting it all into perspective, so we R locked and loaded on the next season.
3: Speaking of 2017-18, how has the offseason been for the defending state champs?
- We’ve had a successful offseason. You can clearly notice the culture of our program elevating. Guys know what it takes to win. Everyone involved with the program understands the sacrifice. I believe the peak of our summer has been reaching the Hoop Group Team Camp Final after beating, IMG Academy, CBA out of Jersey and Gil St. Bernard. We ended up losing to Hempfield in the final, which was bittersweet. The fact that 2 public teams from District 3 were able to make the final says something about PA public school bball and District 3. Hempfield will be good this year and you can clearly see the impact to them reaching the District Final last year.
4: Everyone knows that Reading always gets everyone’s best shot in Berks, but probably even more so last year coming off a state semifinal appearance the year before. Could you just expand on how the Berks league, and even District 3 at large, prepped you for the run thru states last year considering you were the most popular team on the block?
- Getting everyone’s best shot keeps you on point. It’s an awesome position to be in because you know you must be prepared and willing to fight at all times. In District 3, the competition level is so high and the pedigree of the majority of the programs will always guarantee you a competitive team. When you look around District 3, we have so many coaches that I look up to. They have done great jobs with their programs and have been the faces of their programs for years. So as a coaching staff, we take great pride in being prepared and ready for their challenges. They have shown us a lot thru conversations, scouting and situations they have put us in while playing.
5: In last year’s District tournament Reading fell to Harrisburg in the semis after just 2 losses to that point, the last of which came two months prior. Looking back, do you think that game was a blessing in disguise in the sense that maybe it got the team to come to the realization that there was still a lot of work left to be done if they wanted to make it back to Giant Center for the state final?
- Coach Smallwood is a legendary coach and he has been in that situation many of times in his career. Therefore we know he will always have his team ready. Harrisburg came out more physical, hungry and prepared. It was a humbling experience at the perfect time. They deserved the win. But we took that loss and nurtured every lesson within it. We bounced back and practiced harder than ever, our practices looked as if it were the start of the season, guys started spending more time together to enhance relationships. We challenged ourselves in all ways. The Harrisburg loss was a blessing in disguise.
6: No team is able to have a great year like you guys did last year without the help of a great staff. We sometimes overlook them, so could you just touch on how instrumental each one of your assistant coaches are and what they are able to bring to the table?
- Our coaching staff deserves all the credit, they R amazing. Everyone brings something amazing to the table that has made me a better person and our kids better people. We R truly blessed. Coach Flowers is the gatekeeper to the program. He prepares all the kids at the JV level. I trust him with all my heart. He is my brother for over 20 years and has always had my back. He understands me thru and thru.
- Coach Randall is the coach that puts everything into perspective. Coach Randall is patient and always looking ahead. He has helped to calm me down and be more methodical in our thinking. He’s an amazing coach, with lots of experience. The success of our bigs in recent years can be attributed to his coaching as he gets the most out of them. Coach Jablonski has been loyal since day 1 and will go to the mountain and back for the program. He is our numbers and scouting guy. There is no better scouting report.
- Coach Sparrow….well…he is Coach Sparrow. Energetic, wise, and he knows his stuff. More importantly he is loyal and willing to fullfil any role he needs to. He has made us all better because he is the young guy on the staff and has endless energy. We could not be luckier to be involved with him and his skill development company, Point Blank Period (https://www.pointblankperiod.net/).
- We also have a sports pyschologist on staff, Dr. Rick Neff founder of Inner- Edge (http://www.inner-edge.com/). Dr. Neff has opened provided an awareness of the mind. He coaches and prepares us differently than we have ever experienced. We continue to learn the power of the mind. Lastly, Dr. James Goodhart, retired Superintendent is behind the scenes in the program, he and his wife Carol Anne R the founders of our Squires’ Club (https://m.facebook.com/RhsBasketballSquiresClub?id=304198489685650&refsrc=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F&_rdr), which has provided our program the resources to continue to expand. But most importantly, they have been present as mentors, helping us to learn how to lead with love, which is the basis of our program.
7: One of the things that always sticks out to us is just how supportive the Reading school district is, not just to the basketball team, but to all its students and teachers accomplishing great things. We’re curious, what is it like to represent that ÒRÓ, given all the power behind it?
- I don’t know if you have ever gotten the opportunity to meet our Superintendent (Dr. Khalid N. Mumin), but, I suggest that anyone who is within his presence, and introduce themselvesto him. Upon shaking his hand you will understand his impact. We would run thru a wall for him. He has given a new sense of hope; he has changed the trajectory of our city; he is full of energy, hope and wisdom. It makes sense that our school district has so much excitement surrounding it. Our staff and kids feel it and we take great pride in representing our district, we R #RSDProud.
8: Along those same lines, one of the coolest parts of last season was when two Reading legends Donyell Marshall and Stu Jackson came back to Hershey for the state final. As someone who is the pilot of the program, what does it mean to have former players, especially those of NBA stature, be visible and show their support of the alma mater?
- Guys like Stu Jackson and Donyell represent so much from their accomplishments and contributions to the city, but more importantly they represent everyone in the city. Their families still live here. They still attend games and support us in so many ways. It’s an honor to be amongst them and their families because we understand how much they have done for our city and the people within it. The fact that they R still present in the city means a lot. Even coach Pete Carril continues to be active with the program. Once a year he has us at a Princeton game and will sit and talk to the kids….This year he told them to shoot more 3’s….They listened…It drove me crazy…LOL….But hey, if the legend said it, then it must be right….I think it worked.
9: Obviously last year’s team and was highly chronicled and rightly so. Even still, is there anything that you wish people knew more about last year’s team? Maybe something we don’t already know?
- I think our team was pretty well documented, but I think the presence of collaborative leadership was overlooked. No one person can do this alone. We all work together and sacrifice. This team was about as selfless as they come from players to coaches. We filled so many roles for each other and our ego was never in the way because our hearts would not allow it to be. We stand on the values of loyalty, family and commitment, and I believe the players and coaches live by that creed. This helped to build a true family bond that will last forever.
10: You have the floorÉ.What parting words would you like to leave for the readers of LLHoops?
- I genuinely thank you for this opportunity. We R huge fans of LLHoops and their contributions to the game and coverage of our student-athletes. I feel it is important for the Lancaster, Harrisburg, York and Allentown areas to continue working together. We represent a whole lot. We R not filled with private and charter schools, we R just a bunch of mostly public schools trying to compete and make dreams come true. I know that if we continue to work together we can achieve anything. Let’s keep pushing ourselves, challenging our limits and keeping our kids at home, our best is yet to come!
~ Andy Herr