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Pera dismissed as men’s basketball coach

Scott Pera watches his team during a November 2023 men's basketball game against Clayton State University. Pera was dismissed as Rice's head coach March 14. Photo courtesy Maria Lysaker | Rice Athletics.

By Andersen Pickard and Riya Misra     3/19/24 10:51pm

Rice men’s basketball head coach Scott Pera has been dismissed, athletic director Tommy McClelland announced March 14. 

The Owls ended their men’s basketball season March 13 with a loss in the American Athletic Conference tournament opener. They fell 88-81 to Wichita State University, finishing their season 11-21 overall and 5-13 in the AAC. They concluded their first year in the AAC with a second-to-last placement and a tie for the worst record in the conference.

“Over the course of this season, it became apparent to me that a change in the leadership of our men’s basketball team was needed for it to become a championship-caliber program,” McClelland wrote in the press release. “President DesRoches and the Board of Trustees have shown a great desire for this program to take its place among the best in the AAC and agreed with my assessment that a coaching change was the appropriate step towards reaching that goal.”

Pera declined an interview. “​​I am extremely grateful for my time [at Rice],” he wrote in a text message to the Thresher. “I loved the kids I coached and the relationships I made. I will miss it.”

Pera arrived at Rice a decade ago, serving as assistant coach for three years before his promotion to head coach in 2017. Before joining Rice, Pera was the assistant coach at the University of Pennsylvania and Arizona State University. Pera had previously spent 14 years in high school basketball, coaching the likes of James Harden.

During his time leading the Owls, Pera helped land top players like Drew Peterson, a three-star recruit. Then, in October 2022, Pera convinced four-star Keanu Dawes to pick Rice over offers from Power 5 schools such as Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M University, Brigham Young University, the University of Utah and the University of Texas. 

“He’s a relentless recruiter. He works really hard in every aspect of his craft as a head coach, but in recruiting he’s great at developing relationships with the kids and their parents,” Chris Kreider, who worked under Pera at Rice from 2017 to 2019, said in an interview with the Thresher. Kreider is currently the assistant men’s basketball coach at Southern Methodist University.

“Pera has the unique combination of work ethic [and] relationship building,” Kreider continued. “He’s been around some of the best players to ever play, James Harden and all those guys, so he knows what it looks like.”

Under Pera’s tenure, the Owls had two consecutive postseason appearances in the College Basketball Invitational tournament in 2022 and 2023. Launched in 2008, the CBI tournament hosts 16 Division 1 teams that did not make March Madness. Rice lost in the first round in 2022 and in the quarterfinal in 2023. The Owls have appeared in four March Madness tournaments in program history but none since 1970.

Pera, who went 96-127 (0.430) at Rice, leaves South Main after his second-worst season as the men’s basketball head coach. He amassed the third-most wins of any head coach in Rice history, and his 0.430 winning percentage is the seventh of the 11 Rice coaches with over 100 games. None of the program’s head coaches have maintained a winning record since Don Suman, who went 132-105 during his tenure from 1949 to 1959.

“Some people might look at it as a tough job and want to be somewhere else, [but Pera] embraced everything about Rice,” Kreider said. “He believed in the whole experience, the Rice experience, and it came across in how he recruited.”

Assistant coach Van Green will serve as the interim head coach while Rice launches a national search to find Pera’s successor, McClelland said.

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