In a truly tragic turn of events, the lovely Matthew Perry passed away last weekend after allegedly playing in a two-hour pickleball session.
Here, friend and pickleball coach Matt Manasse fondly remembers his late friend, who utilized the popular sport as a means to aid in his recovery journey.
Path To Sobriety
It is comforting to think Matthew Perry was doing one of his very favorite things in the hours just prior to his passing. Manasse shared with PEOPLE the profound significance the sport held for the actor, who left us on Saturday at the age of 54.
Manasse, who had known the Friends star for two years, asserts that it served as an outlet for him and was a pivotal tool in his path to sobriety.
“He thought it was something that could help with his recovery, and he was doing an awesome job,” says Manasse. “He loved it. He came out five times a week; would always talk about it. [He] got so much better; always made everyone laugh. He was competitive, just a genuine, good guy – caring for everybody.”
“Pickleball Coach To The Stars”
Called the “Pickleball Coach to the Stars” by some, Manasse shares his expertise with patrons at the Riviera Country Club, an exclusive members’ establishment in Pacific Palisades, close to Perry’s residence in the Los Angeles area.
Perry was on the court there just before being discovered deceased in his nearby abode, and it comes as no surprise to Manasse that his comrade was on the court that morning. In fact, he was informed that the actor – whose cause of passing is yet to be ascertained – was “performing really well.”
“Pickleball Was His Outlet”
He shares, “When I first started playing pickleball [with him], it was just Matthew and [me]. And then we’d bring in other people.”
Manasse notes that the actor took pleasure in playing with another instructor at the Riviera. She was Perry’s pickleball partner on Saturday and was the first person Manasse reached out to upon learning of the star’s demise.
“She said, ‘Yeah, he’d come out.’ She didn’t say how long but said he’d been doing really well on court, which wasn’t a surprise.”
Manasse adds, “Pickleball was his outlet. He really looked forward to it. He was a competitive guy, not in a bad way at all. He loved it. He wanted to come out. He wanted to win. He loved it. When he hit an unbelievable shot, he would tell you about it for days.”
Yet beyond his affection for the sport, Manasse asserts that Perry – who openly discussed his prolonged struggle with alcohol and prescription painkiller addiction – employed pickleball as a means to maintain sobriety and extend aid to others in their recovery journeys.
According to Manasse, “He had so much that he was doing with his rehab facility and trying to get people clean,” Manasse says. “He would bring them to teach them pickleball. He was just always trying to help people.”
This included Manasse, who endeavored to establish his standing as the go-to pickleball instructor as the sport gained traction among Hollywood’s luminaries. Perry, he recounts, was inclined to lend his support, stating, “Whatever you need, I’m there for you.”
“A Really Good Person”
“That was just the kind of guy he was,” Manasse explains. “We went to dinner together. I was over at his place for the Super Bowl. He cared about other people. He was a really good person.”
The devastated coach, who last spoke to his friend the week before the star’s death, says that he wants people to know that his friend “Matty” was “a guy that wanted to help people and was selfless.”
“He cared about everyone – your day was better when you saw him or when he called,” he recalls. “He never missed an opportunity for a funny joke to make you laugh. Just a genuinely amazing person. Everyone should know he had a heart of gold.”
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