Mike Pettine and Temple


Dick Beck might have been Mike Pettine’s greatest contribution to Temple football.

Simply by virtue of chance, I got to know without a doubt two of the greatest coaches in the history of the game of football on two levels.

One, Wayne Hardin, is in the College Football Hall of Fame.

The other, Mike Pettine Sr., shockingly passed away on Friday while playing golf in my favorite Florida town, Land O’Lakes in Pasco County.

The two men have a lot in common.

One retired from Temple at the tender age of 55; the other retired on top of the Pennsylvania High School coaching world after leading Central Bucks West to its third-straight state title at the age of 56.

Both loved the game of golf.

Both loved the state of Florida.

Both were fiercely competitive.

Both paid meticulous attention to detail.


The two Mike Pettines.

In a football offseason a long time ago, I played a two-on-two basketball game with both Mike Pettines, the 40-some coach and his 12-year-old kid. Pettine guarded my taller teammate, a 6-foot-2 reporter named Jay Nagle, while the young Pettine guarded me. After I hit my third-straight jumper at the top of the key, Pettine yelled: “GUARD HIM!!!”

Just a friendly game of two-on-two, but that’s how competitive Mike Pettine Sr. was.

Both Pettine and Hardin are reasons why I do not suffer coaching fools lightly, and why, for instance, I was appalled that Temple had 120 yards in penalties against Penn State in a 34-27 loss last season. When I was a reporter at the Doylestown Intelligencer, I did a story on why Pettine’s Bucks had so few penalties each and every year. (Hell, CB West went one year with less than 100 yards in penalites.)

In it, I quoted players—past and then present—who said that Pettine would run a play until it was executed perfectly.


Arians made Beck his 25th recruit in one of his final classes

“Run it again,” Pettine would say if a lineman had jumped a count or something else went awry. “Run it again!” was a phrase you would hear as twilight turned to dark at every CB West practice. When the play was run four or five consecutive times to perfection, Pettine would move on to the next play.

That’s how you eliminate penalties, in the five practice days before a game, not by yelling at players during a game.

To me, penalties are mostly completely needless factors that cause losses and are directly traceable to the head coaches.

Pettine approached the entire game that way, squeezing every ounce out of the talent he had. He would study opposition film as if cramming for a final, which was a trait he had in common with Hardin. His final state championship win, a blocked punt in the last minute won the game and it was by virtue of design and not luck. “We had two punt blocks designed specifically for that opponent and the one we called we had a greater degree confidence in it working,” he said.

What Pettine did by posting a 346-42-4 career record might never be accomplished again at a neighborhood school, or a “town” school, which CB West really was sharing the same town with CB East.

I talked to Mike every Thursday night for 10 straight years in doing the Friday football previews for the Doylestown Intelligencer. Once, at the end Dick Beck’s senior year, I casually asked him: “Where is Dick Beck going to school?” He said, “probably West Chester or Towson.”

Knowing how good Beck was, I told him that wasn’t happening and I would talk to Bruce Arians. One thing led to another, as Bruce called Pettine and got game tapes. Four years later, Beck was only captain of the 1990 7-4 Owls.  Now Beck is the head coach at North Penn.

Pettine knew I was friendly with coach Hardin and often our game preview talks would venture off into other areas, talking about the players he sent to play for Hardin like Doug Shobert, Tom Duffy, Jeff Stempel and Dr. Pat Carey, among others.

When my other alma mater, Archbishop Ryan, was working on a long winning streak, I suggested to Pettine that he play Ryan. I gave him Ryan coach John Quinn’s phone number and Pettine, who never backed away from a challenge, scheduled a home-and-home with Ryan.

The Bucks won both games, 22-14 and 14-7, and, after the second win, Pettine took me aside afterward.

“Mike, me and (assistant coach) Mike Carey were talking about what we would be able to do if we were coaching a high school of 2,000 boys,” Pettine said of Ryan. “I’d love to have that luxury.”

At the time, CB West had 600 boys. Most of them weren’t as talented as Dick Beck or Doug Shobert. They would fall into the category of a 5-8, 150-pound wingback named Michael Smerconish who made contributions by running the same plays over and over again. Smerconish now has his own political show on CNN.

Pettine made all the ones who played for him men.

When Bruce Arians was fired at Temple, I suggested Pettine throw his hat into the ring.

Mike politely declined.

“Mike, I think Gerry Faust ruined it for all of us high school coaches,” he said, referring to the guy who went from Cincinnati Moeller straight to Notre Dame.

“They got the wrong high school coach,” I said.

And they did because I wish everyone got to know how great Mike Pettine was the same way I did and why so many of us are heartbroken today.


8 thoughts on “Mike Pettine and Temple

  1. MIke, recalling the old days about the BuxMont league here got me to thinking about my time in school back in Perkasie Pa, home of Pennridge HS. Here we knew it was a big deal to be able to beat CB and then CB West with their coach, Mike Pettine. I recall games at both their fields in Doylestown and ours at the old stadium in Sellersville on Friday nights. And did we get big crowds, often 5000 + people, standing room only. You know how it was in small town America.
    I also grew up reading the Doylestown Intelligencer, and especially true during the HS football season.
    The greats will not be forgotten for as long as we remember.

  2. Correction and update, I was there to see both Dick Bedesem and Mike Pettine at CB.

    • Dick Bedesem was head coach at Del-Val College for at least a little part of the Mike Pettine Era. I’m sure Dick might have helped out Mike, but I don’t think it was a for a very long time.

  3. What would he have done at my high school, which had 6000 boys? My junior year the coaches introduced something called perfect plays, that sounds a lot like “run it again.” It required the offense to run a play five times from the goal line perfectly Any mistake required that an extra play be run five times. At times, we went up and down the field five and six times before the drill was over. That year we went to the NYC championship where we lost in overtime on one of the worst simultaneous catch calls ever. The ref had a tooth knocked out after the game.

  4. Tremendous story Mike!!!!

    • I second that emotion, a terrific read and one of the many reasons I come to this blog on a semi-regular basis. Any of us who were in the coaching fraternity either knew Mike or knew of him and were in absolute awe of him. Hell, I knew NFL coaches who were in awe of him.

  5. Tremendous story Mike!!

  6. As a CB (no directional yet) grad I just missed the Pettine era. He started at CB while I was in college (Temple). A few years later I started noticing CB as a top 20 HS team nationally in USA Today, then top 10s and even top 5s and winning, as an eastern PA school for the first time in 40 years, the state championship. Temple would have been perfect for him – not the same as Faust going to one of the top college teams of all time. He had a dynasty at CB, probably the best coach in eastern PA HS history, if not the whole state. BTW, Doug Shobert was the brother to John Shobert, CBs QB when I was in HS.

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