Longtime Skyline basketball coach T.J. Perry has made a point of stressing to the players to chase dreams and big things.
Now he’s leading by example.
Perry has resigned as Skyline’s varsity boys basketball coach and as the varsity girls assistant coach to join the varsity boys coaching staff at powerhouse Mountain Brook in the Birmingham metro area.
“I’ve made a big push here for our kids to step outside the norm, go to college and play, or chase things that we’d normally never done here,” Perry said. “With me getting the opportunity to go down there (to Mountain Brook) and coach at what is the high school basketball pinnacle in our state right now, I’d kind of be fraudulent in what I’m pushing to them if I didn’t jump at it.
“I don’t think the job at Mountain Brook is any bigger than the job at Skyline. Wherever you are, that’s the biggest job. I know I don’t get this opportunity if it wasn’t for these kids and for (Skyline girls and longtime boys coach) Ronnie (McCarver). I can’t say how grateful I am to have had the opportunity here and I how appreciative I am.”
Perry has been McCarver’s right-hand man for the past 12 years, for three seasons at Section — Perry also played for McCarver in 2002-03 at Section, helping the Lions win the Class 1A Boys state title — and the past nine years at Skyline. McCarver was the varsity girls and boys head coach for the first eight of those seasons, and Perry took over as varsity boys head coach this past season and led the Vikings to a 22-9 record, a Northeast Regional appearance and a state-leading 12th consecutive area tournament championship.
“I really enjoyed coaching the varsity boys this season,” Perry said. “They were a fun group. Expectations weren’t that high because we only had one coming back (from the prior season) but things started clicking and the kids had a great year.”
After so many seasons together, McCarver said it would be strange without Perry around the programs. Both Skyline teams have thrived since the duo arrived just prior to the 2012-13 season, with multiple area titles and regional appearances for both teams, three county boys titles, two state girls championship game appearances and the 2021 Class 1A Girls state championship.
“He’s been with me so long, he’s basically like one of my kids. And when your kids grow up and do something good, you get real excited. That’s the way I am. I’m tickled for him,” McCarver said. “(Mountain Brook) is getting a really good guy and coach. He’s done a lot for (Skyline basketball) through the years, did a lot for me. He’s going to be hard to replace, but I’m real excited for him and what he’s going to do.”
Along with his varsity coaching duties, Perry also coached numerous junior varsity and junior high teams throughout his time at Skyline.
“Coach McCarver gave me the best seat anyone could have for the last 12 years, to be alongside the all-time winningest coach in Jackson County history,” Perry said. “I can’t thank him enough.”
Perry will serve as special education aide along with his coaching duties at Mountain Brook, which has won six state championships in both the Class 6A and 7A classifications in the past nine seasons.
Mountain Brook head coach Tyler Davis said adding Perry to the Spartans staff will “continue to make our program better. He’s a huge basketball guy, loves the game and has a passion for coaching kids. To add someone like that to our staff is a blessing. He’s a guy that is always trying to learn from everybody. He’s pretty well known in the coaching circles because he’s a guy that is always looking to learn.”
Perry started to work at Mountain Brook on Tuesday.
“I feel pretty fortunate that I’m getting this opportunity,” Perry said. “I just can’t thank the kids, Ronnie, everybody at Skyline, enough.”