PCCâ€™s Perrault having a blast with Volcanoes
Jeff Perrault has done a lot of things.
The Portland Community College faculty member teaches physical education and exercise science at the Sylvania campus just outside of Tigard. He holds two college degrees, spent eight years in the U.S. Army and has lived overseas.
But since getting his first taste of it at the age of 16, it's coaching sports that the 48-year-old said has come to be his calling.
"It provides a vehicle for me to be able to influence, support, encourage and inspire people to excel at something they love to do," Perrault said. "It's a great platform just to teach life skills, along with the game itself."
This past season, Perrault took the reins of the Vancouver Volcanoes, a newly resurrected professional basketball team that plays in The Basketball League (TBL), a 44-team league with teams from coast to coast.
The Volcanoes practice in Tigard and play their games at Clark College in Vancouver. Most of their players are former college ballers ranging in age from 22 to 35.
This year's team boasted players from the University of Idaho, Portland State University, Western Oregon University and Mississippi Valley State, among others.
Participating players are paid; the league minimum salary is $500 a month, while the average players are paid $1,500 and some earn as much as $4,000 monthly.
And don't kid yourself — the competition is real.
The Volcanoes compete in the West Division of the TBL and play teams up and down the West Coast. They finished 7-17 overall this past season and lost a first-round playoff series to the Salem Capitals, with the deciding game June 4.
Perrault said that from a talent standpoint, teams in The Basketball League would at worst hold their own against some of the best Division I college programs, and in many cases, he thinks, they would come out on top.
He said that a year ago there were 12 to 14 TBL alums on the NBA's G-League's rosters, three of which made it to the NBA. That's not a big number, but it is evidence that the league is not only a viable option for aspiring professionals, but a growing one as well.
"We're doing really well from a competitive standpoint," the coach said. "Obviously, we're not at the G-League level yet, but if we can get close to that, that'd be great."
Perrault grew up in Southern California and later attended the University of Montana as part of the ROTC program. From there, he was commissioned as an infantry officer in the Army. During his five-year military service, he graduated from U.S. Army airborne and ranger schools.
Upon completing his military obligations, Perrault began his coaching career with help from his high school coach and mentor, Ed Chevalier, and has since coached at the varsity high school level, junior college level and now with the Volcanoes.
In addition to his coaching and teaching duties at PCC, Perrault is also a trainer and advocate for the Positive Coaching Alliance, a national nonprofit organization designed to create a positive, character-building youth sports environment. The coach said of the program, which was started in 1998 by Jim Thompson, that the idea is to not only provide a positive and inclusive sports environment for kids, but also ensure it's "done right."
"Everyone remembers their 'glory days.' Well, your kids are living their glory days now, so let them enjoy them," Perrault said. "I'm tasked with going out and speaking to athletes, coaches and parents about the power of positivity and using that versus negativity or fear."
That mindset is effective at all levels, but it's particularly poignant at the youth level, like with Perrault's work at The Practice Facility in Tigard, where the Volcanoes train, and where Perrault has also worked with AAU teams like Team Fly.
The Practice Facility is a basketball training gym started in 2013 by former Oregon State University basketball player Josiah Lake. It offers players everything they need from instruction to weight training — whatever will help them improve as players.
Perrault has been working with the facility for seven years now.
"They've been great partners for us," Perrault said. "He (Lake) had a dream to create a facility for basketball, and it's phenomenal."
And what's next for Perrault? He plans to continue his work with the Volcanoes and hopes to see the team and organization continue to grow, citing the Hillsboro Hops as an organization he and the Vancouver ownership and front office have come to respect and model their plan after.
But while certain of some things, he's less sure about others — like where his coaching will take him.
"I need to go through this for a couple more years to figure out where I see myself not only basketball-wise, but also where I feel I can make the most impact," Perrault said. "Is it with the high school kids? Is it with college kids? Or is it with the professional guys? I'm not sure I'm ready to answer that yet."
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