Shannon Perry-LeBeauf finds family in women’s basketball, helps mentor players
Sean LeBeauf proposed to Shannon Perry-LeBeauf in front of the UCLA staff and team in Pauley Pavilion on Feb. 11, 2019. He said he knew she would want to be surrounded by her Bruin family during a moment like that. (Alex Driscoll/Daily Bruin)
By Jon Christon
April 6, 2020 7:20 pm
This post was updated April 8 at 10:05 a.m.
People typically celebrate birthdays surrounded by the people who mean the most to them.
This year was no different for Shannon Perry-LeBeauf, UCLA women’s basketball associate head coach.
Despite her birthday falling amid the spread of the novel coronavirus, Perry-LeBeauf was still able to celebrate her birthday with her family – her UCLA family. A Zoom video call that featured the players and coaches commemorated the birthday on April 3.
“Family is everything – when you are faced with hard things and uncertainty, you need your family,” Perry-LeBeauf said. “Knowing that we have each other, it means the world to all of us.”
About a year prior, Perry-LeBeauf found herself with the same people in an entirely different unforeseen situation. When she walked into Pauley Pavilion on Feb. 11, 2019, for what she had been told was a photoshoot, Perry-LeBeauf was expecting to be met with cameras and a few donors.
But when she walked in and heard the song “Chills” by Charlie Wilson playing through the arena’s speakers and saw all the faces of her players and coworkers, she knew something was up.
“It was a setup among all setups ever,” Perry-LeBeauf said. “They staged this donor function that we had to take pictures for that day – it was all fake, and I had no idea.”
Before long, Perry-LeBeauf’s then-boyfriend Sean LeBeauf, surrounded by friends, family, and Joe and Josie Bruin, got down on one knee at center court and asked for Shannon Perry-LeBeauf’s hand in marriage.
When Shannon Perry-LeBeauf said the word “yes,” the players – who were just as surprised as she was – were the first ones to greet her with excited shrieks, hugs and even tears.
“The players had no idea,” Shannon Perry-LeBeauf said. “It was just an unforgettable moment and memory for me to be able to share something so personal with these young women. I love them, and my life is an open book and I want to be a great role model – for them to be able to witness that it was really special to me.”
And while staging a proposal at his fiancee’s workplace might not seem like the most romantic gesture, Sean LeBeauf said having her UCLA family there to watch was integral to the plan.
“The most important thing for (Shannon Perry-LeBeauf) was not that it was done at Pauley Pavilion,” Sean LeBeauf said. “The biggest thing for her was that the most important people in her life were present to witness it – the UCLA family.”
Four months later, on the day of the wedding, Shannon Perry-LeBeauf was surrounded by her UCLA family once again. Nearly the entire team showed up to Thousand Oaks, California, the weekend before spring quarter finals week to support one of their closest coaches and mentors.
Perry-LeBeauf said the team being there for her on her big day epitomized the familylike nature of the program.
“One reason I chose not to have a destination wedding was because I wanted (the players) to be able to share it and to be able to come,” Perry-LeBeauf said. “It just spoke volumes to the family atmosphere that we do have here.”
Perry-LeBeauf said some of her players went above and beyond – including junior forward Lauryn Miller, who Perry-LeBeauf described as her “right-hand person” leading up to the wedding. Miller helped with the invitations and dress fittings, as well as leading the reception setup for the out-of-town guests.
Miller’s relationship with Perry-LeBeauf, however, started long before the wedding.
“(Miller) is like my child,” Perry-LeBeauf said. “We began to get closer the second half of her freshman year. Fast forward to her sophomore year, (Miller) would hang around a whole lot and I took her under my wing a little bit and she asked me to mentor her.”
While Miller’s growth as a player has shown on the court – as she improved her stat line from averaging 13.3 to 22.0 minutes, 2.7 to 5.8 rebounds and 3.7 to 6.7 points per game between her sophomore and junior seasons – coach Cori Close said the most important parts of Perry-LeBeauf’s mentorship have been private.
The head coach said Perry-LeBeauf has been an off-the-court role model for many players.
“(Perry-LeBeauf) has been a tremendous influence of (Miller’s) development between the lines, but she’s been more of an influence from the character side – from the growth as a young woman,” Close said. “There’s just several of our players that would also say that. You can’t find an area of our program that she hasn’t had her hands in.”
Perry-LeBeauf’s Instagram and Twitter handles – “imamentor_ucla” – say it best. She is a self-described mentor for all the players on the team.
Sean LeBeouf – who is an assistant women’s basketball coach at Prairie View A&M – said his wife’s job title of “basketball coach” is just that: a title. He said mentoring her players is what comes first for her.
“Helping them develop into young women is the most important thing for her,” Sean LeBeauf said. “Coaching is just the avenue for her to do it.”
After coaching for 10 straight years with stops at Iowa, USC and Duke, Shannon Perry-LeBeauf took a two-year break from coaching at the collegiate level. It wasn’t until she called Close to congratulate her on getting the UCLA head coaching job that it became a possibility for her to come back into coaching.
The transition to UCLA wasn’t always easy for Perry-LeBeauf, especially when she was first hired.
As a self-described introvert, she said the transition of joining such a tight-knit team was difficult for her because it forced her to open up in front of her players and fellow coaches.
“(Close) said it best – ‘We do life together,’” Perry-LeBeauf said. “That was hard for me to adjust to when I first got here. I’m really introverted, I’m a private person – what do you mean ‘Do life?’”
The team’s results during her first year didn’t help her transition either, as the Bruins went just 14-16 and missed out on any postseason play during the 2011-2012 season beyond the Pac-12 tournament.
Perry-LeBeauf said it was during this hardship that the team truly developed the family dynamic it has today.
“It’s so much a family because families are not perfect – you go through the ups and downs and the highs and lows and you love regardless,” Perry-LeBeauf said. “It’s unconditional and that’s what this is all about. That makes us tougher and it makes us stronger together.”
The associate head coach said it is this family dynamic that makes her job as a recruiter that much easier. Perry-LeBeauf helped land the first No. 1-ranked class in UCLA history in 2014.
“It’s easy to sell because it’s real,” Perry-LeBeauf said. “It’s one thing if you’re trying to sell something that you’re not being honest about. But what we have is real, and (recruits) can see it and can feel (the family atmosphere). They sense it when they come and visit.”
Nearly nine years after her initial transition to UCLA, Perry-LeBeauf and her Bruins are faced with a unique challenge – one off the court that impacted their ability to compete: the cancellation of the March Madness because of the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Close said it was upsetting to lose a final chance to show off the team’s on-court chemistry, but that the unforeseen circumstances have forced the players to focus even more on their personal dynamic – so often led by Perry-LeBeauf.
“It’s really painful that you never got a chance to see how that chemistry would have played out in the NCAA tournament,” Close said. “The chemistry here is undeniable, and (Perry-LeBeauf) is in charge of really just orchestrating how we are intentional about that.”
When the news that their season had come to an end broke March 12, players migrated toward their coaches’ offices so they could be together one last time.
“That kind of showed how much they were hurting – they needed to be around their basketball family because it wasn’t supposed to end,” Perry-LeBeauf said. “They weren’t ready for it to be over. There was a desire or a want to still be around their family.”
Whether it’s at her wedding or on a virtual birthday call, whenever Perry-LeBeauf is around her players, she’s with family.