Vic Trilli spoke with Dennis Perryman for the last time a week ago. Perryman was calling Trilli to recommend a candidate for Trilli, the athletic director at Newman University in Wichita.
He was trying to help somebody, Trilli said, which was usual for Perryman. But the conversation also turned into an hour-long talk between two longtime friends. It was a fitting last conversation between two people who knew each other for nearly 50 years.
Perryman, who guided the Garden City Community College athletic programs for nearly two decades (1986-2004), died Tuesday at his home in Sheridan, Wyo., about two years after he and his wife, Cherie, had moved from Garden City to be closer to family. He was 77.
It has been said that being a good leader requires a combination of hiring good people and then delegating them to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
For Dennis Perryman, it seemed as though he had that golden touch.
Several former GCCC coaches and administrators recalled Friday some of their memories of Perryman, who left many legacies, one of which is the indoor athletic complex that bears his name at GCCC.
“As far as Dennis Perryman goes, he's the finest individual person, leader if you will, that I've been around in 40 years of athletics," said Trilli, who first met Perryman as a high school basketball recruit in the early 70s, and then worked as Perryman's assistant in the early 2000s, before replacing him as GCCC AD at the end of 2004.
“He certainly was knowledgeable on a lot of fronts, especially his basketball background,” Bryce Roderick, currently finishing up his career as the Jayhawk Conference Commissioner after serving as an assistant to Perryman for 12 years (1989-2001), said.
“He had a tremendous amount of experience in coaching, and I think the skills that made him successful there were the same skills that made him successful as an athletic director.”
When Perryman arrived in Garden City in 1986 — after two decades as a basketball coach at multiple levels — Roderick was serving on the GCCC Board of Trustees, and involved in his hiring.
“He had great organizational skills, and the fact he had been a region director in Montana, we knew he had a wealth of knowledge about the NJCAA and how it worked,” Roderick recalled.
Those skills helped GCCC mount an era of athletic superiority in the region, as the now defunct wrestling team won three NJCAA championships in four years and 12 individual championships; the football team had a combined record of 151–58-1 and won seven bowl games, while playing in eight-straight conference championship games; the baseball team had seven region championships and reached the junior college World Series; the women’s basketball program reached the national championship tournament twice; and track athletes captured several national titles.
“Nobody’s had that kind of run of success of all the sports teams that they had when Dennis was there," former GCCC assistant athletic director and current Dodge City Community College Athletic Director Jake Ripple said.
Ripple never directly worked for Perryman, but Perryman's impact on the region was hard to miss.
"He wasn't always the favorite in other places in the conference, but that's because he was a huge advocate for Garden City Community College," Ripple said. "He was doing all he could for the school."
That included bringing talented coaches and administrators to GCCC.
“He had a great sense of judging coaches and what they could bring to the programs at the college,” Roderick, a Garden City native, said. “I think he was able to bring the best out of them, and then they wanted to do their best for him.”
The last thing Trilli wanted to ever do was disappoint Perryman, who he lovingly called 'Bear.'
"He's a really big man, so we called him 'Bear,'" Trilli, who coached Perryman's son Brandy at the University of Texas, said. "But he had a unique quality to be able to rally people. It didn't matter what it was. If he needed his yard done, or he needed a new building, it was hard to say no to him. He had that gift."
Roderick joked that Perryman delegated to him game management, which included securing officials for all the sports — football, basketball, baseball, softball — something Perryman didn’t enjoy.
“He told me once that he had never met an official that he liked,” Roderick said with a chuckle. “He could be fierce in his thoughts and we could get into some disagreements about things, but he was always willing to let me do my things and he took care of his.”
Joe Slobko, the long-time GCCC baseball coach with the winningest record in the sport for the school, said his memories of Perryman were also those of delegating duties and then letting the baseball coach do his own thing.
“He pretty well left me alone as he was more involved with the football and basketball programs,” Slobko recalled during a Friday telephone interview. “He let me raise the money to build the (Baseball) Academy and also for raising the money to build Williams (Stadium). There was always that feeling of if I did a good job, I’d never hear much from him, and that’s pretty much how it went."
Slobko said he remembers the Busters’ winning the Region VI baseball tournament, and that Perryman called him to say he wanted to treat the team to a dinner.
So everyone met at Time Out, and Slobko had bought t-shirts that said Region VI champions on it and all the players wore those to the dinner.
“When we got there, and then Dennis arrived, guess what? He had bought t-shirts for the young men as well,” Slobko said with a laugh. “I thought it was funny, the players thought it was funny. I’m not sure how funny Dennis thought it was, but we all thought it was.”
Slobko recalled that on the good spring weather days when the Busters were playing at home, he could spot Perryman up in the grandstands at Williams, sitting there with a bag of peanuts.
“On the good weather days, he’d be up there watching,” Slobko said. “If the weather wasn’t cooperating, you wouldn’t see much of him at all.”
Slobko, like many other GCCC former coaches and administrators, was saddened to hear the news of Perryman’s death on Tuesday.
“I was sorry to hear that,” he said. “I know that Dennis had a passion for the sports, and getting the new gym was to his delight. Then, he was able to raise the money to build the softball fields.”
One fond memory of Perryman for Roderick was the lengthy and numerous road trips they took to watch Perryman’s son, Brandy, play basketball at the University of Texas in Austin.
“There were a lot of road trips, leaving and driving to a game all over the country, and then driving all night to get back home,” Roderick said. “When you’re in the car with somebody that much, you get to know them pretty well. He just let you do your job and didn’t micro-manage. If he thought you weren’t spending enough time in the office or doing your job recruiting, he’d bring you in for a visit.”
One of the prized accomplishments also included the development and expansion of the Broncbuster Athletic Association, the fund-raising arm for the college athletic scholarships.
“He really enjoyed connecting to the community and bringing people into the college experience,” Roderick said.
And once they were a part of GCCC, they were a part of Perryman's family, Trilli said.
"He was special," Trilli said. "I love the fact that he was a family man first, but his players and his coaches became an extended part of his family.
"He's a wonderful, wonderful man that gave 20 years to Garden City Community College."