Peering into the future for Portland State basketball
For nearly a decade, since Ken Bone was roaming the sidelines and Jeremiah Dominguez was orchestrating back-to-back NCAA Tournament teams from 2007-09, Portland State has been something between bad and mediocre on the basketball court.
Athletic director Val Cleary is banking on two new items to turn that around — first-year coach Barret Peery and the $51-million Viking Pavilion.
Cleary hired Peery to replace Tyler Geving, who coached Portland State to a 15-16 finish and 7-11 in the Big Sky, in the last of his eight seasons at the PSU helm. During that span, the Vikings finished better than fifth only once (2011-12).
Of course, Geving was coaching in Stott Center, a bandbox that made it difficult to land capable recruits.
Enter Peery, 46, who served as associate head coach last season for Herb Sendek at Santa Clara.
Peery's reputation through two decades of coaching is as a recruiter and motivator.
"Spend five minutes with him and it makes you want to play for him," Cleary says. "It makes you want to run through a brick wall for him."
During the hiring process, Cleary says, "the No. 1 thing was his personality. He has a solid resume as a coach, too. He is a great fit for our department. He is a great fit for what the team needs."
The Vikings needed a better home arena, and they're getting it, albeit not in time for this season. Construction is underway on a 3,200-seat facility that will be ready for the start of the 2018-19 campaign.
Peery — who served one season (2002-03) as an assistant at PSU under Heath Schroyer — might not have been interested in the Viking job if not for the new facility.
"If I wouldn't have seen shovels in the ground, it would have been harder to believe there is going to be a brand-new arena coming," Peery says. "When you see that being built before your eyes and they want you to be the coach, it's exciting times."
To recruits, Peery says, "This city sells itself really well. Nike is here. The Blazers are here. Kids have a great opportunity to come and live in an unbelievable place. But — there was always a but — the facilities were behind here.
"As we take this next step with the commitments they're making, it makes our opportunity much greater to be an upper-echelon team in our league more consistently," he says. "We always had that bump in the road, and now that bump is going to be gone."
Included in the arena project, scheduled for completion by next spring, is a practice facility, a new weight room, new offices and new locker rooms.
"When it's done, you're looking at a situation that is as good as any in the Big Sky," Peery says.
Cleary believes Peery will be a selling point, too. She likes that he has been a head coach before, with a combined record of an almost incomprehensible 178-30 in three seasons apiece at College of Southern Idaho (2002-05) and Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa (2011-14).
Peery's teams played up-tempo.
"We led the nation's JC ranks in scoring in four of the six years," he says. "Our history has shown we want to play fast. Anybody who walks into a practice knows that.
"We want to be pressure-packed and create opportunities with our defense. People thought we were really good offensive coaches. I thought we were good defensive coaches who created opportunities to score that way."
Peery joined Sendek's staff during his last season at Arizona State (2014-15), then followed him to Santa Clara for one season before moving on to Portland State. He was also an assistant under Jim Boylan at Utah from 2008-11.
"I'm excited to be a head coach again," Peery says. "Your ultimate dream is to be a coach of your own program. When this opportunity came up, it was something I wanted to jump at.
"Val and I hit it off immediately. We see eye to eye on the vision for what's going on here. And there's a lot going on."
Bobby Medina spent 16 seasons (1997-2013) as the Blazers' strength and conditioning coach. During Peery's one season on Schroyer's PSU staff, Medina helped out with the Vikings' strength and conditioning program and became acquainted with Peery. Perry and Medina — now in his second season as Santa Clara's assistant athletic director/sports performance — worked together last year with the Broncos.
"Barret is a really on top of it," Medina says. "He relates well to the kids. He understands being plugged into the players. He is excellent working with skill development at practice. Our players loved him.
"It says a lot that Coach Sendek made him his first hire and associate head coach when he got the (Santa Clara) job. Barret was a huge part of our program here. We really miss him already."
The Vikings return four seniors from last year's team, including two starters — 6-8 center Traylin Farris and 6-4 guard Bryce Canda. Also back are rotation players Deontae North, a 6-4 guard, and Brandon Hollins, a 6-6 forward.
"They've all done a good job getting ready for the season," Peery says. "We inherited some kids who are excited for the change and a new opportunity. They're a group that was hungry to be coached."
Peery added three transfers, including Ryan Edwards, a 7-1 senior from Gonzaga who will likely be the Vikings' center.
"Ryan's problem (with the Zags) was, they kept having NBA draft choices come through there," Peery says. "He's plenty good. He's skilled. He can score. He'll help us."
Portland State's lone freshman is 6-foot guard Holland "Boo Boo" Woods, who led Glendale, Arizona's Apollo High to the 5A state championship game last season, scoring 33 points in an overtime loss. Woods, who should join the PSU rotation immediately, averaged 27.0 points and 5.7 assists and was runner-up for Gatorade Player of the Year.
"He's a quick, aggressive kid, comfortable with the ball," Peery says.
Peery already has four players verbally committed for next year, including a pair of in-state high school seniors — 6-4 guard Kyle Greeley of West Salem and 6-9 center Filip Fullerton of Southridge. Also on board are 6-9 Trey Wood of Anthem (Arizona) Prep and 5-11 guard TJ Killings of Panola (Texas) JC.
"We have to coach our guys up and continue to recruit and get better along the way," Peery says. "But I like our kids. We have a good mix right now.
"We can take that next step with all the growth we have with our facility. We have a lot to offer as a program. When that building is done, I don't see a lot of roadblocks to getting done what we want to."
The Vikings open Nov. 5 against Evergreen State at Lewis & Clark, which will be their home gym through most of the season. It's an ambitious schedule that includes visits to Oregon, California and Santa Clara and participation in the PK80 Tournament at Moda Center, beginning with a Nov. 23 pairing with Duke.
"We have one of the nation's hardest preseason schedules," Peery says. "I don't think we'll ever have this crazy of a preseason schedule again. But if there were ever a time to do it, it's this year, since we don't have a home court."
It would seem to be a building year on the Park Blocks, but that's not the way Peery is approaching it.
"No matter what the situation," he says, "we want to win. And we plan on winning."