Mike Pettine Jr of North Penn and Mike Sr after a game 11-05-99 >>>>>>>
C B West Helmet
Central Bucks West High School
Mike Pettine epitomized the old-school approach of coaching football.
He was a perfectionist, demanded every ounce of effort from his players, had an incredibly intense demeanor in practices and games, and had a Vince Lombardi-like presence.
With that no-nonsense style, Pettine turned Central Bucks West into a football dynasty. With several mythical state titles and four PIAA Class 4A state crowns, he set a high standard for other Southeastern Pennsylvania squads.
"He had a huge influence on coaches in this area," Pennridge coach Jeff Hollenbach said. "A lot of teams tried to follow what his teams did from an X's and O's standpoint."
Pettine, 76, who guided the Bucks to a 326-42-4 mark in 33 seasons, died of a heart attack while playing golf Friday morning near his winter home north of Tampa, Fla.
Outside of Pettine's immediate family, possibly no one knew him better than Mike Carey. He played for the legendary coach in the 1970s and was his right-hand man before succeeding him in 2000.
"He was a combination of a guy who I admired the most in this world and he was my best friend," Carey said. "That developed as the years went along. After he finished coaching, I talked to him every week."
Pettine, who was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2011, recently returned to the area to accept a lifetime achievement award in Harrisburg.
"I've never had anything happen in my life that was so unexpected," Carey said. "He was the picture of health, very sharp, in great shape. He had issues with his feet, but he was still playing golf, while using a cart, five days a week."
Under Pettine, the Bucks put together a 55-game unbeaten streak from 1984 to '88 and won 45 straight from 1996 through his departure in 1999.
"Aside from the wins, he had such a positive impact on so many kids," Carey said. "He taught so many life lessons that paved the way for success beyond high school.
"He made people so much better than they ever realized they could be. Nobody did that better than Mike."
The PIAA instituted state football playoffs in 1998. In 1991, with a 26-14 win over District 10's Erie Cathedral Prep at Altoona's Mansion Park Stadium, C.B. West earned the first of its four titles.
Since Pittsburgh-area teams had captured the first three large-school titles, it was a major breakthrough for the Bucks, District 1, and Eastern Pennsylvania.
"We were mythical state champs before that, but winning that first one on the field validated all the other great teams we had," Carey said.
Another one of the state's high school football coaching greats, Berwick's George Curry, died last April. He compiled a 455-102-5 record in 46 seasons.
"They were very much alike in terms of their game plan," Cam Melchiorre, Berwick's unofficial historian, said. "It was student body right, student body left, fullback up the middle, and quarterback keeper."
Pettine ended his career on a winning - and highly dramatic - note. In the closing minutes of the 1999 state final, Andrew Elsing's blocked punt and recovery for a touchdown, followed by Bob Tumelty's extra-point boot, gave the Bucks a 14-13 triumph over Cathedral Prep.
Carey said that his hard-driving mentor had a softer side that few outside his inner circle witnessed.
"Mike was a very caring person," he said. "He loved his kids and family so much. And when a game was over, he was a guy who liked to go out with friends, have a beer, and share some laughs."
Published: February 25, 2017 — 3:01 AM EST | Updated: February 25, 2017 — 5:55 PM EST
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