For the second time in six weeks, the Lynnfield High School community is mourning the sudden loss of a basketball coach.
On April 24, longtime freshman boys coach Kevin Canty passed away suddenly.
Tuesday, girls basketball head coach Jim Perry of Saugus died suddenly of an apparent heart attack Tuesday, according to school principal Bob Cleary.
“We don’t have any definitive details yet, but we heard that it was a heart attack,” said Cleary. “We’re all just heartbroken about it, Jim was a really great guy who had a great temperament and worked very hard to teach the girls basketball skills. He worked great with administrators and really just did anything we ever asked of him. He was just a well-liked guy who was so positive, no matter whether they won or lost. He will definitely be missed.”
Cleary and school athletic director Michael Bierwirth said they broke the sad news to the members of the team yesterday.
“We made an announcement about 10 minutes before the end of the school day that current team members were to come to a meeting and told them then,” he said. “It’s tough to say how they took it because you never know with kids this age how much experience they have had in things like this, but we wanted to let them know we were there for support if they needed it. It’s very sad because he was such a positive addition to our program. He came into a program that had been down for the last few years really helped motivate the girls and developed some great relationships with the girls who stayed with the program, so that will definitely be missed.”
Perry graduated from Saugus High School in 1982 where he played on the boys basketball team.
He took over as the Pioneers’ head coach in 2015, succeeding Bob Melillo, who coached the team from 2010-2011 through the end of the 2014-2015 season. He also served as head coach of the girls team at Saugus High and was active for many years in the Saugus Youth and Recreation Department’s youth basketball instructional and travel team programs. Perry’s assistant coach at Lynnfield, Peter Bocchino, founded the travel program in 2001.
The Pioneers struggled through Perry’s first two seasons, winning just two games. This past season, the team appeared to be on the verge of turning the corner, winning three games with seven of their losses coming by nine points or less.
“He was definitely building the program back up, so while it’s a tragedy to lose him, it’s kind of a double tragedy when you consider he was really turning things around,” said Cleary.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.