The head coach of the San Luis Obispo High football team announced his resignation Thursday.
David Kelley coached the Tigers for five years after three years as an assistant. He met with players to inform them of his decision.
“It’s just the right decision at the right time,” Kelley said. “… I want to thank all of the people who supported me, especially my wife, Teryn. I have been blessed, honored and privileged to be the Tigers’ head coach for the last five years.”
The Tigers finished 4-6 this season after a 3-0 start, which included a 34-21 win over Garces, a team that plays for the CIF-Central Section Division 2 title tonight.
But San Luis Obispo was 1-5 in PAC 7 play, the only victory coming against Pioneer Valley, an 0-6 team in league.
Kelley will continue to teach social science at San Luis Obispo High.
“Dave worked tirelessly,” athletic director Jeff Brandow said. “He was here on weekends studying game film. He gave a lot of his time, energy and effort to the job. He loves this community and the student-athletes.”
A search will be conducted to find Kelley’s successor, and Brandow has already received inquiries from several candidates, including some with college-level coaching experience. Brandow said the school is open to hiring from within the county or outside of the area.
The position will carry a teaching or staff-position option.
Brandow added he’s striving to run “a top-notch athletic program, so we need to run a top-notch football program.”
“Once we name a head coach, my expectations are to get student-athletes involved and buy in, and first and foremost, compete in the new PAC 5 League,” Brandow said.
Kelley made the triple-option offense his hallmark, gleaning knowledge from Cal Poly coaches who run the offense.
The system enabled the Tigers to rack up 3,285 rushing yards in 2011 and 2,887 in 2012 behind versatile, fleet-footed quarterback Garrett Giovannelli.
But at times, Kelley’s play calling was questioned, and some players and parents disagreed philosophically with Kelley’s approach, according to multiple players who spoke with The Tribune but didn’t want to be named in this story.
Some thought a throw-heavy scheme and more downhill running attack would have served the offense better behind quarterback Thomas Orradre, who they believed to be a better pocket passer than a mobile, running quarterback.
Orradre threw for 707 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions and rushed for 615 yards and one touchdown. The Tigers had 17 rushing touchdowns among five players.
Still, a player who disagreed with Kelley’s system said he respected Kelley as a coach and “wouldn’t have wanted any other coach,” adding he hopes to see Kelley coach again at another school if not at San Luis Obispo.
The player said Kelley spent “ridiculous amounts of time preparing for games,” including up to 12 hours per week watching film.
Kelley said Thursday the triple option was a system he thought served his players well.
“Philosophically, knowing their intelligence level, I thought running the triple option was a testament to their character, smarts and athleticism,” Kelley said.
Kelley said that he will have fond memories of his San Luis Obispo coaching experience. He said his coaching style emphasized “dedication, discipline and desire.”
“It’s not about winning and losing,” Kelley said. “It’s about what you put in.”
Kelley was 24-28 overall and coached four All-CIF players — Giovannelli, Jack Ferguson, Cole Foubert and Jacob Flores.
In Kelley’s most successful season, the team went 8-4 and reached the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division quarterfinals in 2011, coming close to beating Chaminade before falling 31-27.
Kelley highlighted the bright spots of this season — including the strong start, a win over Garces and a 21-16 victory over Pioneer Valley.
He also noted the team was active in community service, including participation with the Miracle Mile for Kids run and breast cancer awareness.
“I will look back on the experience I had with players and coaches with fond memories,” Kelley said. “It’s time for our community and football program to press forward. Our best years are ahead of us.”