Bryant hires James Perry ’00 as new head football coach

Alum looks to bring high-powered, fast-paced offense to Bulldogs before first game against Bruno

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, February 3, 2017

The football team’s season opener against Bryant University on Sept. 16 will be equal parts antagonism and amity for both teams. The perennial clash of the in-state foes is one marked by familiarity and desire to stake the claim of football supremacy in the country’s smallest state. But the game will feature a head coaching matchup between mentor and protege, in which mutual respect gives way to passionate determination to best an old friend.

Across the gridiron from Head Coach Phil Estes P’18 will stand Bryant University’s newly-appointed Head Coach James Perry ’00.

Perry’s contributions to Brown football are many. Throughout his career, he has collected an extensive list of accolades: 1999 Ivy League Player of the Year, 1999 All-New England, 1999 Rhode Island Athlete of the Year and First-Team All-Ivy from 1997 to 1999. He holds an Ivy League record for career passing yards, completions and touchdowns, as well as seven others. Perry led the Bears to an Ivy League Championship in 1999, and he was inducted into the Brown Athletics Hall of Fame in Fall 2016.

“I’m certainly going to try to borrow a lot of the techniques that (Estes) used to make (Brown) a perennial winner and bring that to Bryant,” Perry added.

He was a “tremendous competitor,” Estes said. “He was a winner, he knew the game inside and out. As a player, he just got to that point where he controlled everything around him. His presence in the huddle was something that commanded a lot of respect,” he added.

Perry had a busy career between his time as a student athlete and his Jan. 3 appointment as head coach of Bryant.

After brief stints as positions coach at the University of Delaware, Dartmouth, University of San Diego and Williams College, Perry went back to school. He received a master’s degree in education policy and leadership from the University of Maryland in 2006 while working as a graduate assistant for the football team. Perry then returned to Brown, where he served as the program’s recruiting coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

“Nobody on any level, in any part of the country does a better job than Phil Estes at running his program,” Perry said. “Everybody who plays for Phil knows how much he cares about them. The amount of energy, the amount of effort he puts into making them the best they can be is a very real thing to players who play for him, and I’m going to bring that same energy and attitude toward my players.”

His time coaching under Estes was a formative experience for him, he said. His career then took him to Princeton for seven years, where he helped the Tigers win the Ivy League title in 2013 and 2016 as offensive coordinator.

Bryant’s Athletic Director Bill Smith said that Perry’s constant success, both as a player and a coach, was the most appealing aspect about him.

“We liked Coach Perry’s background with Ivy League institutions and … it’s both about winning on the field and also winning in the classroom,” he added. “We’re strongly committed to both here at Bryant.”

Boasting a 4-2 conference record last year, Bryant football is poised for success. “I think the program’s in good shape,” Perry said. “We’re going to change the way that we play, especially in the way that we approach the game. From a tempo perspective, it’s going to be much faster.”

This should come as no surprise, as Perry’s Princeton offenses were prolific. In 2016, the Tigers scored an Ivy League best 34.6 points per game. Estes compared Perry’s offenses with the University of Oregon’s high-speed squads under Chip Kelly.

“We’re expecting success right away with Coach Perry, primarily because of the style of football that he plays,” Smith said.

Another member of the Estes coaching tree will be joining Perry on the Bryant sidelines, as Ed Morrissey will be the offensive line coach for the Bulldogs. Morrissey coached at Brown while Perry was a player and at Princeton while Perry was also a coach.

Perry will face off against his former coach for the first game of Brown’s season — with their football careers intimately linked, the contest will carry an extra significance for the two men.

“Once he got the job we started breaking down Bryant film and personnel,” Estes said. “It’s certainly going to make that first game next year a lot of fun.”

“Once the referee blows that whistle and the game starts, I have no love for James Perry,” Estes said. “But then, after the game, I love him again.”

“I root for Brown every time I’m not playing them,” Perry said, mirroring the sentiment.

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