It’s a year later than all parties initially hoped, but David Kelley is the new football coach at Morro Bay High.
Athletic director John Andree confirmed the news Thursday before making a formal announcement welcoming the former San Luis Obispo coach back to Morro Bay, where he served as an assistant under then-coach Andree from 2004-05.
“I know that he has the character and desire that it takes,” Andree said. “He knows our system and our school, and he has great leadership skills. I’m excited to have him back on board.”
Kelley takes over for three-year head coach and longtime assistant Jack Greer, who stepped away after the Pirates’ opening-round loss in the CIF-Southern Section Northwest playoffs.
“Those are big shoes to fill,” said Kelley, who went 24-28 in five years as San Luis Obispo’s coach, including a CIF-Southern Section Northern Division quarterfinal appearance in 2011. “You put (Greer) and coach Andree’s names together, and you’re talking about two guys who established a successful culture at Morro Bay that not many people in the community realize.
“I’m just excited, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get back to something I love doing.”
The transition was a bit of déjà vu for Greer, after the 25-year veteran resigned following the 2013 season, but was asked by Andree and new principal Dr. Kyle Pruitt to return to the sideline when an on-campus candidate could not be found.
Andree said he hoped to hire Kelley for 2014, but a teaching position wasn’t available and the school district was also in the midst of hiring a principal.
“Jack, being the standup guy that he is, decided to come back,” Andree said. “He wanted a break, but that’s just the kind of person he is and the character he has.”
This offseason, there were vacancies at football coach and in Kelley’s field of social studies, and the pieces fell in place.
Greer, whose teams finished runner-up to Lompoc twice in the Los Padres League and earned a share of the inaugural Northern League crown, said Morro Bay “can’t go wrong” with the hiring of Kelley.
“I’ve coached with him and I’ve coached against him, and the first thing I can say is that he’s an extremely hard worker,” Greer said. “He’s a tireless worker, he’s going to put the hours in, and it will never be because of lack of preparation on his part.”
Kelley got his start in 1997 as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Dos Palos, and was a part of six CIF-Central Section champion squads — three each in football and wrestling.
He moved to San Luis Obispo in 2004 with his wife, Teryn, and got a job teaching social studies at Morro Bay while coaching both the offensive and defensive lines for the Pirates.
“It reminded me of home,” Kelley said of Morro Bay. “It’s a really tight-knit community, family-oriented and blue collar.”
He left for San Luis Obispo after the 2005 season, spending 2009-13 as head coach. His triple-option offense flourished midway through his tenure with the likes of versatile quarterback Garrett Giovannelli at the helm. But different personnel led to varying results, as the Tigers finished his final season 1-5 in league after a 3-0 start.
“Going from assistant coach to the head coach, you’re now the general manager, the coach, the you name it,” Kelley said. “There’s a lot of responsibilities, and heavy is the head that wears the crown.
“What I want to do is develop these boys into men who will become good husbands, fathers and community leaders. That’s what I think this job brings.”
Greer said he was surprised when Kelley left San Luis Obispo, and that the Tigers’ struggles were a byproduct of the ebbs and flows of high school sports.
“It’s hard to make lemonade without lemons,” Greer said. “When he had quality players, he won league. And when he didn’t, they struggled. San Luis Obispo is in an extremely difficult league, and I always felt he did his due diligence.
“You can roll over a pebble and someone will be disgruntled. I know that almost to a player, our kids appreciated coach Kelley when he was here. He’s down to Earth, he’s very open, and he’s honest with them.”
Kelley met with his new players at lunch Wednesday and has begun in-person interviews to round out his coaching staff. He said no decision has been made on whether the Pirates will run the triple option, although returning quarterback Isaac Manaputy did run for 559 yards and seven touchdowns on this past year’s 5-6 team.
“My focus right now is on the people,” he said. “Making sure all the players are on board and know what’s expected of them.”
As for Greer, who was known for an attacking defense and the ability to get the most out of his often undersized roster, he’s ready for his break to start in earnest.
“When I saw Dave on campus (Wednesday) to make the announcement to the players, that’s when it hit me, and I had true closure,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m done coaching by any means, but I need some time.”