Alum becomes Perry boys hoops coach

Tucker returns after pro career overseas

By Jim Naveau -



Clay Tucker had an urge to coach even before his very successful professional basketball career ended four years ago.

That was the known. The unknown for him was that his first head coach’s job would come at his alma mater at Perry High School.

Tucker, a 1998 Perry graduate, was introduced as the Commodores’ new coach on Wednesday. He follows Matt Tabler, who became Elida’s head coach on May 19 after 14 seasons in which Perry won seven Northwest Central Conference championships and made its only appearance in the boys state basketball tournament.

“I probably had the urge to coach the last seven or eight years. I had the urge to coach when I was playing. I didn’t think it would be high school. I thought I would be a college assistant first and then hopefully become a college head coach,” Tucker said.

“But why not start here at my alma mater in my hometown? Home is where the heart is always going to be. I’m inheriting an excellent group of kids from Coach Tabler and I just want to continue the winning tradition here,” he said.

Tucker averaged 16 points a game as a senior at Perry but was not on the radar of most NCAA Division I schools. When Wisconsin-Milwaukee offered him a scholarship he accepted it and redshirted his freshman year to concentrate on becoming stronger.

He became Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s career scoring leader with 1,788 points and led the Panthers to their first NCAA Division I tournament appearance, where they lost by one point to Notre Dame in a first-round game.

After college, he played professional basketball in Sweden, Greece, France, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, Spain, Turkey, Lebanon and Argentina.

His coaching experience started with a year as an assistant coach at Lima Senior. He was a graduate assistant last season at Auburn on the staff of Bruce Pearl, who was one of his coaches at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Tucker described his reaction to learning on Tuesday that he would get the Perry job as “pure excitement.”

“It’s probably one of the most exciting things that has happened in my career,” he said. “I heard some rumors that Tabler was considering the Elida position. Once it became official he was up for the Elida job I reached out to (Perry athletic director) Gina Lutz and we went from there. I applied just like everyone else, went through the interview process just like everyone else and got the job.”

He expects to play an up-tempo style of basketball and says if it were up to him, there would be a 24-second shot clock, similar what he saw while playing in Europe.

“We’re going to be relaxed, we’re going to get up and down the floor a little bit. We’re going to press a little bit. The guys are going to play loosey-goosey but under control. I’m just going to be on the sideline being an orchestrator.

“The goal, first and foremost, is to have fun. I want the guys to play together. I want the guys to be role models on and off the floor. And the ultimate goal is to win the conference and go as far as we can in the tournament,” he said.

Tucker returns after pro career overseas

By Jim Naveau

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