Beloved Coach and Educator
Arthur Howard Betts was born on May 21, 1930 to Arthur & Kathryn Betts. By all accounts he came into this world kicking and screaming and this boy from Turtle Creek is still as feisty today.
As a child, his days were filed with participation in the “sport of the season”… but quite different from the organized Little Leagues of today. No, Art started his athletic career by playing scrappy pick-up games with the boys from the neighborhood. His passion for sports has never waned.
At 13, his family moved to Wilkinsburg. There, Art was Captain of the basketball team, and also excelled in baseball and football. When he graduated in 1948, he earned a full scholarship to play football at Penn State.
In those days, all of the GI’s were returning home and were given special privileges on the Penn State Campus. Therefore, many Penn State freshman, including the athletes spent their freshman year at one of the State Teacher’s Colleges. Art’s first year was spent at California State. While there, he lettered in three sports, football, basketball and baseball.
Art has always been one who puts his family first and at the end of his junior year at Penn State he married his high school sweetheart Marjorie Guy. That was June of 1951, and that fall he was voted Co-Captain of the Penn State football team by his teammates.
After graduating from Penn State, Art went into the service. He became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. Shortly thereafter, his daughter, Linda was born. Then, he had an opportunity to play Pro-football, but because of his young family, he opted for the more lucrative field of teacher/coach.
His 1st teaching/coaching job was at Edgewood where he would stay for 13 years from 1954-1967. During his tenure he wore many hats: Head Coach of football, baseball, basketball, and even golf. He also served as Athletic Director. His teams won many championships including the WPIAL Tournament for basketabll in 1962.
Although Art was involved in sports simply because he loved playing, coaching and working with young people, do not think for a second that he did not take his “hobby” seriously… For instance, during one basketball game in particular, it has been recalled that Art felt he had been a victim of a terrible call. Extremely upset, he chased the official down the hall of Edgewood High. The official, in fear for his life, locked himself in a closet. A local priest was witness to the entire incident. It took a “man of the cloth” to calm Art and save the life of one WPIAL official!
While at Edgewood, he did not take the traditional summer vacation afforded to teachers. Art spent his summers as Playground Director at Coenig Field in Edgewood. His children fondly remember the summer days they spent playing with their dad and the other kids from the Edgewood area.
In 1967, he had a wonderful opportunity to return to his Alma Mater, Wilkinsburg as Head basketball coach and defensive coach in football. Although he was only there for two years, he would make a lifelong impact on one player in particular. At basketball practice one day, this player broke his nose. The family recalls that he was unusually saddened by this. His daughter Linda was anxious to see, “Who is this nice boy that Dad is so worried about?” Not only did she meet him, but, she married Bob Nelson several years later.
Art and Marge moved their family from Penn Hills to Monroeville in 1969 and Art jumped at the chance to take the position at Gateway where he could work close to home. As most of you know, Art stayed with the “Gators” until his retirement in 1990. He was hired as Head basketball coach and defensive coach in football. Along with Head Coach and dear friend, Pete Antimarino, they built a football program of which the locals were proud and the rivals feared.
The wins were numerous, the accolades countless, but all the while Art remained true to himself. He never played or coached for personal awards or trophies, and he always kept things in perspective. This was never shown more clearly, than when he took a sabbatical from coaching at Gateway from 1979 through 1982. Why? So that he had the opportunity to watch his son, Bobby, play football at Clarion. After Bob graduated in 1982, Art returned to coach football. Gateway football again rose to the top of the WPIAL when the Gators played in the championship game 3 years in a row: 1984, 1985 and 1986.
Art retired from teaching in 1990 but in some ways he will always be a teacher and a coach. Over the years, he has enjoyed watching his nine grandchildren participate in the sports that he loves so much. Coach Betts never felt that he needed any awards…being with the kids, teaching fundamentals, playing games…those are Art’s rewards.
A personal note to Art & Larry:
Art Betts and Larry Philips, you are both very deserving of this honor here tonight. Most successful organizations have a close-knit staff working together unselfishly and placing the team’s success as the number one priority. Art and Larry, you were two men that Gateway could count on every day. You two added passion and character to our athletic programs and truly made Gateway a special place to be.
Art, it was a pleasure being associated with such a loyal and hardworking person. Without a doubt you were a player’s coach who received a great deal of respect from them. Your leadership and inspirational qualities contributed to the success of our football program. Art, you gave us your best years as defensive coach, bringing us several W.P.l.A.L. championships along with state and even national recognition. I want to thank you for the great job you did instilling mental toughness into our always strong defensive unit. Our defense was always highly regarded throughout the W.P.I.A.L. with you as our leader. In my mind’s eye, I can still see you along the sidelines with your pants rolled up, shouting out encouragement to our defense. They would always perform well and certainly played their hearts out for you every game. Art as we honor you tonight, I wish you and Margie continued good health and success in your retirement years.
Larry, you worked diligently behind the scenes contributing to the success of all our athletic programs at Gateway. As our athletic administrator/ faculty manager/equipment manager-you wore many hats- you always did more than what was expected. The players and coaches always depended on your expertise and you were always available. I especially want to thank you for your help after school hours. Lost or misplaced equipment was always an issue, but you somehow got the players on to the practice field on time.
Larry, I learned one thing from our equipment salesman, Bill Feeney. One day I questioned him about the quality of game pants we were purchasing. Bill reminded me that I should worry more about getting the ball across the goal line and let you worry about the equipment. That message helped me continue our good relationship. Larry, good luck in your retirement. It will always be a pleasure being associated with such a fine person.Pete Antimarino, 11-11-2000