Perino returns to Escanaba as A.D.

Tony Perino

ESCANABA — Tony Perino is returning to his alma mater to take over as athletic director. Perino, a 1992 Escanaba High School graduate, was officially named A.D. at the school’s board meeting July 15.

Perino — who was a three-sport athlete at Escanaba — spent the past year as the A.D. at Rapid River, and he also coached the girls’ varsity basketball team and spent two years as a teacher there.

“I played three sports in high school, but technically I played four. Injuries kept me out of football jayvee through varsity,” Perino said. “I played baseball for the Cubs (Legion baseball team) before they had a high school team … I started all four years. I lettered in track all four years. I did cross country instead of football because of my hip injury.”

Perino — who also applied for this position 12 years ago and coached basketball downstate at East Lansing High School — began his coaching career at 17 years old in the district at Lemmer Elementary School. He says he learned a lot from the coaches before him.

“A lot of the coaches I learned from — Terry Duval, Dan Flynn, the late John Prokos, Rusty Bluse, the late Jim Lindstrom, Gary Seehafer, the late Doug Fix — a lot of the coaches who have since retired are still involved with the (Eskymo) Fan Club, or in other capacities within the school district,” Perino said. “That’s kind of neat to see because I owe a lot to them for where I am today. Obviously, I looked up to all of them. They weren’t your best friend, but they made you work and held you accountable so you respected them, and they instilled all the values that I still have today. I owe a lot to them, so it’s kind of bittersweet.”

Perino noted some of the differences at the school now compared to when he was there.

“The inside of the front of the school is different,” he said. “I did a little walk around the school today and I could smell the gym floor marinating from across the way. That was obviously re-done, but there’s some subtle differences from when I was there. The skeleton of the school is still the same for the most part, but it was kind of neat to do that.”

As expected, Perino is excited to be returning to his alma mater, but he also said it’s tough to leave Rapid River.

“It’s very exciting … it is but it’s not,” he said. “I’m leaving a great staff at the school at Rapid River. Up until about two months ago I wasn’t planning on going anywhere. Opportunities arise, doors open and things happen … so I applied. I didn’t throw any balloons or confetti because I’m kind of torn between the excitement of being back here and leaving Rapid River. I just said goodbye to a couple of a people on the staff at Rapid. This is the last week of transition before I head over here. I’m starting to tie the loose ends up now.”

Perino noted former Rapid River A.D. Rick Pepin and a lot of the former staff he worked with.

“Rick Pepin is someone else I owe a lot to,” he said. “Rick Pepin did a great job over there. I learned a lot from Rick. A lot of the staff there — Steve Ostrenga and Greg Rubick — were very instrumental and very informative individuals. The A.D. is only one person — it’s really a team effort. You have to have a great staff behind you.

“I can’t thank the staff enough for the time I had there. I was hired by Dr. Jay Kulbertis in 2017 when the phone call happened. Labor Day weekend I was up in Marquette working in special ed. transition with kids from all across the U.P. He called me and asked if I wanted to take the position at Rapid and the rest was history.”

Perino — who worked in athletics at East Lansing High School as a coach and event manager for six years for Michigan State athletics — had applied at a couple other places prior, wanting to see what opportunities were out there.

“I had applied at Northville High School. There’s 2,700 students there, and I made it to the final five out of 98 (candidates),” he said. “I wanted to see what’s out there.”

Perino went on a Minor League Baseball tour after the last day of school last spring, and wasn’t notified of the job opening until he got back two weeks later.

“I didn’t even know until I got back, and it had already been posted for two weeks,” he said. “It’s not that I wasn’t interested, I just did not know it was posted. One of my colleagues mentioned it to me, and it was at that point that I applied for it.”

Taking the job in mid-July means there’s a lot of work to be done for the upcoming season.

“Yeah, it’s busy,” Perino said. “There’s four vacancies that need to be filled, there’s some contracts that need to be signed or turned back. The difference here is having full-time to do that position, rather than do two full-time positions squashed into 24 hours at Rapid. Based on Rapid being considered a smaller school, it’s really only considered half-time.”

He talked about an 100-day plan of things he hopes to accomplish right away, noting he wants to try to complete football schedules two years in advance.

“You always want to have the mindset of what goals there are,” he said. “I’ve already spoke to a lot of the administrators and some of the coaches, but once I’m able to see what areas need more attention I’ll be able to have more of an idea of what needs to be done. My big thing is safety, and making sure there are no safety concerns anywhere.

“I am excited to continue the outstanding tradition of educational athletics at Escanaba and help our student-athletes and coaches here be their best. After all, academics come first and what our softball team did the last two years has been nothing short of phenomenal, winning state softball titles and (being) academic all-state.”

Perino is taking over for Nick Nolde, who held the A.D. job at Escanaba the past five years.

“I put my heart and soul into this job for five years and I’m saddened that I’m no longer the A.D. at Escanaba High School,” Nolde said.

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