Killian’s Austin Perez said some of his coaching counterparts in Miami have been extremely blunt.
“They’ve told me I’m too young,” said Perez, 23. “They say, ‘Are you ready’?”
Perez, who won’t turn 24 until March, insists he is indeed ready.
He is the youngest boys’ basketball coach in Killian history, according to his athletic director, Kenny Floyd. And although there are no official records to verify, it’s safe to say Perez is also one of youngest coaches in Miami-Dade County history.
A 6-4, 230-pounder who played four years of ball at Killian, Perez has been coaching as an assistant since he graduated high school.
The FIU graduate was an assistant at Palmetto last season when the job came open at Killian. Floyd said the fact that Perez is a Killian alumnus helped him land the job as a government/history teacher as well as the new varsity head coach.
“I think you have a little more pride in your work when you’re a former student here,” Floyd said. “I also thought he had the best interview of the six candidates. He’s mature for his age.
“He brought in a pamphlet that was basically an outline of how he was going to run the program.”
Floyd said he gives Perez a B-plus in his rookie season. The grade, Floyd said, would jump to an A-plus if Killian (9-10, 5-5) could win District 16-9A.
The Cougars are in third place in the seven-team district. Only the top four teams make the district playoffs, which Killian will host starting on Feb. 8.
Perez said he’s pleased with his team’s progress.
“I have these kids thinking at a different (level),” Perez said. “We are not a state championship team right now. But we’re up and coming.”
Beyond basketball, Perez said he cherishes the opportunity to mentor the young men he’s coaching.
As a youth, Perez’s parents divorced, and his father, Felix Perez Jr., moved to Michigan. They kept in touch by phone, but basketball coaches such as former Miami Hurricanes standout Trevor Burton at Arvida Middle and Nick Ronda at Killian became role models for Perez.
Now it’s Perez’s turn to be a mentor. He demands good grades and has already kicked two kids off the team for failing to meet what he sees as the minimum standards for effort and conduct in the classroom.
Killian’s Christian Calatayud, a 16-year old sophomore wing, said there’s always some skepticism when a new coach arrives. But he also said that the kids on the current team all bought in to Perez immediately.
“It’s fun,” Calatayud said of having a young coach. “He’s almost like a big brother. It’s great that he played high school basketball recently and knows how it’s run. Some of the older coaches – no offense to them – they don’t know that.
“As soon as we met him, I knew he was the right guy for us.”
For guidance, Perez has two veteran coaches on his staff. Bruce Alter, 66, is his varsity assistant. And Jean Dorvilier, 48, is the JV coach and also a varsity assistant.
Dorvilier, by the way, was Perez’s JV coach just a few years ago. He now works for Perez.
The most important thing, Perez said, is the community feel he’s trying to enhance at Killian.
“People know me,” Perez said proudly, “as ‘Killian Basketball’.”