Pera joins Penn hoops staff

Posted: August 28, 2012

SINCE FRAN Dunphy took over at Penn nearly a quarter century ago, the program has become a stepping-stone for head coaches. So, when Arizona State assistant Scott Pera had a chance to come back to his home state and coach under Jerome Allen, he did not hesitate. Pera will take the place of assistant Dan Leibovitz who has left to work with friend/mentor and new Charlotte Bobcats head coach Mike Dunlap as his player development coach.

Leibovitz' departure means Allen will have an entirely new staff this season. Former Penn player Ira Bowman took Mike Martin's place after Martin became the head coach at Brown, his alma mater. Jason Polykoff (Friends' Central coach) replaced Rudy Wise as the volunteer assistant.

Leibovitz, John Chaney's right-hand man at Temple before getting the head coaching job at Hartford, came to Penn 2 years ago to be with his good friend Allen, a classmate at Episcopal Academy. When he had a chance to go with Dunlap, it was an opportunity he could not turn down. Before getting the Bobcats job, Dunlap was the interim head coach at St. John's.

Leibovitz first met Dunlap when Dunlap coached former Temple guard Rick Brunson in Australia. Dunlap used to spend a week at a time at Temple practices during the Australia offseason, observing and taking notes.

"During the last 7, 8 years, he became a really close friend and a really great mentor of mine," Leibovitz said.

Despite the title, Dunlap assured Leibovitz that he will have the role of a regular assistant.

"He told me five times it's just a title, we're all assistant coaches, we all do scouts, we all have the same job responsibilities," Leibovitz said.

When Pera and Allen spoke, they had an immediate connection. It did not hurt that Pera's wife Alyssa is a Penn grad. And it certainly did not hurt Pera's credibility that he coached former ASU star James Harden (now a gold medalist and part of the Oklahoma Thunder's Big Three) in Tempe and in high school at Southern California power Artesia High. Harden actually followed Pera to ASU.

Now, Pera, a Hershey native, 1989 graduate of Penn State Harrisburg and the coach of 1999 AA state champions Annville-Cleona, is coming back home. He is not unmindful of Penn's history of turning assistants into head coaches. Martin is the latest in a long line. John Gallagher went from Penn to Hartford's head job. Allen was a Penn assistant before becoming the head coach.

Three of Dunphy's Penn assistants became head coaches. Fran O'Hanlon went to Lafayette, Gil Jackson to Howard and Steve Donahue, first to Cornell and now Boston College. Dunphy was actually a Penn assistant before getting the head job there and eventually succeeding Chaney at Temple.

Allen himself has actually been approached by NBA teams for assistant jobs this offseason. He turned them down to stay at his alma mater.


Contact Dick Jerardi at jerardd@phillynews.com

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