A fond remembrance of Coach Mike Pettine
I was in court this past Friday afternoon when a local attorney informed me of the passing of Mike Pettine Sr. So many thoughts quickly passed through my mind as I recalled the man who had such an impact on my life as well as many of those who played for him at Central Bucks West.
He came to my installation ceremony and reception in early August 2016. He told me that day that he was very proud of my accomplishment becoming a judge in the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, as ironically that same week he had been informed of another former player’s troubles with the legal system. We had played golf a month earlier, during which he expressed his hope for Mike Jr.’s return to coaching so that he could once again review and break down game film and offer his insights to his son’s coaching staff. We shared many laughs and jokes with one another that day, as we usually did when we got together.
As a co-captain of his 1979 CB West football team, I recall few laughs. Coach was all business and demanded more from each of us than we thought we could deliver. After every win, he used the Monday film session to highlight our every mistake and error, such that we usually left the room feeling we were lucky to have won the past week’s contest.
During weekly practices, we often would run the same play 10 or more times until each and every player carried out his assignment with the precision, technique and timing he demanded. Coach Pettine was a perfectionist and demanded that from his players. He was clearly a fan of another famous Italian-American football coach, Vince Lombardi, who once said, “In the pursuit of perfection, we hope to catch excellence.”
As high school students, we rarely reflected upon the broader lessons of life. However, as players under Coach Pettine, we received those lessons after classes ended on a daily basis. Most importantly was the value of teamwork, working together toward the common goals of success and victory. Loyalty was also evident, as coach would spend each off-season helping every one of his senior players who wanted to play ball beyond high school find the right fit with an appropriate college program, regardless of whether the player was Division 1, Division 2 or Division 3 caliber.
To many of us, Coach Pettine was a mentor and a father figure, a great man who got the most out of his players. While we mourn his passing, we will carry with us the life lessons he imparted to us as learned on the gridiron in Doylestown.
Jeffrey G. Trauger
CB West Class of 1980