OMAHA, Neb. - When Vince Dooley assesses the job David Perno has done coaching Georgia's baseball team, he does so with tremendous pride.
Initially, Georgia's outgoing athletic director surprised many when he gave the job to the Bulldogs' 33-year-old assistant after Tulane's Rick Jones and Baylor's Steve Smith both turned it down.
Not only did Perno lack the head coaching experience Dooley initially said he wanted his new coach to have, but some questioned the decision because Perno was a lifelong friend of Dooley's youngest son, Derek.
But after taking just three years to lead the Bulldogs back to the College World Series, nobody is questioning Dooley's choice any longer.
"This is very special to me for a lot of reasons, certainly for the team that has grown as the season has gone by, and shown the tenacity, teamwork and a never-say-die attitude that this group of young men has," said Dooley, who steps aside as Georgia's athletic director July 1. "Naturally, I'm very proud of David, who I guess at the time when I hired him had some risk."
Perno is grateful that Dooley gave him the chance.
As a youngster, Perno would often go to Dooley's house to hang out with Derek, currently an assistant coach at Louisiana State.
That friendship continued when the pair went to Athens' Clarke Central High School, where Perno played fullback on the Gladiators' 1985 state championship football team.
"I'm just happy I can repay coach Dooley for the opportunity he gave me," Perno said. "He took a risk on me, not only because of my age, but also his knowing me when I was a snot-nosed little punk, and having to overlook all that."
Dooley chuckled when told what Perno said.
"I'll let David say that," Dooley said. "I just remember David being a tough little kid, with competitive instincts that were quite apparent early on. He was full of life and had a great spirit about him."
Dooley expects that spirit to be rewarded once the season is complete.
Perno has one year left on his contract, and Dooley has recommended to incoming athletic director Damon Evans that he receive an extension and a raise. Perno is currently among the Southeastern Conference's lowest paid baseball coaches, with an annual salary of $80,000.
"There's no question about it," Dooley said. "That situation is going to be addressed when the season is over. David and I have already talked about."
Meanwhile, Dooley will be in Omaha to watch the "tough little kid" try to win Georgia's 20th national championship.
"I haven't even thought about that," Dooley said. "It's not about my situation, although it is extra special this last month to see them having such success."