Two days after Mike Rhoades left Rice men’s basketball, a new age began. Call it the Pera era. Last Thursday, Rice announced it will hire former associate head coach Scott Pera as its new head coach for next season.
Pera said he is thrilled to have the opportunity to lead the program.
“It’s a special day,” Pera said. “I’ve worked at some great institutions and for it to culminate at this place, Rice University, is literally a dream come true. I couldn’t be happier.”
For the entirety of Rhoades’s tenure, Pera served as associate head coach. He helped to oversee the Owls’ rise from seven wins the year before Rhoades took over to 23 wins this season.
Pera began his head coaching career at Artesia High School in Southern California. He led the program to the 2006 California state title with a 33-1 record and was named the Los Angeles Times and Long Beach Press Southern California Coach of the Year in both 2003 and 2006.
He is best known for being Houston Rockets’ star James Harden’s high school basketball coach. Harden attended Artesia from 2003 to 2007 and earned McDonald’s All-American honors his senior year, the year after Pera departed for a job at Arizona State University. Pera recruited Harden to Arizona State and remained with the Sun Devils for six years. Harden, still a close friend, said he is grateful for Pera’s influence on his life.
“He’s been a mentor, a father figure, he’s taught me basically everything I know,” Harden said at Pera’s press conference Saturday. “For me to see him take this opportunity, he’s definitely going to take advantage of it. Rice should be proud of [its] new head coach.”
Pera spent two years at the University of Pennsylvania before joining Rice’s staff. He is now the 25th head coach in Rice basketball history and will have to rebuild the roster after the transfer of star sophomore guard Marcus Evans and the departure of junior guard Marcus Jackson. According to Pera, however, he is confident he can build a talented roster through recruiting.
“The recruitment part of it is going to be really exciting,” Pera said. “There’s a lot of happy high school coaches seeing that one of us got a head D-1 coaching job. 23 wins also helps in recruiting. We’re going to ride that momentum.”
The new head coach has high hopes for his tenure at Rice. The Owls have not qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 1970, but Pera said he believes he can help the team end the drought.
"We'll work our tails off even harder than we have before to make sure that after 1970, there's a 2018, 2019, 2020 NCAA Tournament banner," Pera said.