St. John’s Prep Athletic Director Jameson Pelkey has announced that Newburyport resident and Clippers boys basketball coach David Clay will be the new head coach of the Eagles’ program, effective immediately. Also a Special Education teacher at Newburyport High, Clay replaces John Dullea, a veteran of nine seasons, who announced his resignation last month in order to spend more time with family.
Clay spent the past five seasons at the Clippers helm, the same program for which he served as a water boy in grade school and where he later shined as a standout player. Newburyport was 74-26 in his tenure and reached the postseason every year except 2021, when the MIAA did not stage a tournament due to the pandemic. Clay graduated from Newburyport in 2003 and went on to play collegiately at New Hampshire’s Daniel Webster College (now closed), earning a degree in Sports Management and Business Administration.
“Dave has been coaching boys basketball at the high school level for 14 years, serving as a head coach for the past 11,” said Pelkey, now in his fourth year as Eagles AD. “During our conversations, he made clear that he believes developing men of character who aim to serve others is far more important than any play he draws up on a white board. Dave knows that by meeting students-athletes where they are, both functionally and athletically, a good coach can identify what’s necessary to maximize each player’s capabilities, on and off the court.”
Clay will work the sidelines as the Prep’s fourth basketball head coach of the 21st century. Dullea compiled a 117-68 record and reached the postseason seven times, including six straight appearances from 2014-19. Previously an Eagles assistant coach, he succeeded Sean Connolly, who posted an 89-25 record, including a 10-4 postseason mark in five seasons from 2008-2013. Connolly led the school to the program’s only state title in 2011 with current Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaughton serving as the star. Prior to that, current Prep baseball coach Danny Letarte ’86 was head coach for 12 seasons.
“My experience as a coach and educator has provided me with a deep understanding of the teaching methods to best reach all student-athletes,” said Clay, a three-time Cape Ann League Coach of the Year at Newburyport, who led the Clippers to a CAL title for the first time in 13 years in his second season. “I strive to run a basketball program that not only wins games, but also produces student-athletes who value education, sportsmanship and community service. As head coach, my involvement in the school community and in building relationships with future Eagles will be imperative to long-lasting success for the program, and I will work tirelessly toward that goal.”
Clay, who also owns an M.S. in Special Education from Cambridge College, was named IAABO Board 130 Robert Pierce Outstanding Boys Basketball Coach of the Year in 2022 and won an MIAA Educational Athletics Achievement Award for Community Service and Leadership in 2018. Prior to his stint at Newburyport, he served three seasons as the jayvee coach at Triton Regional High before taking over as head coach. In his six seasons at the helm, his teams went 51-71 and, in his final campaign of 2017, the Vikings reached the postseason for the first time in 16 years and earned their first tournament win in 51 years. He has also coached for the New England Storm AAU club team out of North Andover.
Clay takes over an Eagles’ program that has gone 36-36 since reaching the postseason Division 1 North Sectional quarterfinals in 2018.