From the desk of one San Gorgonio High athletic director about another:
Matt Maeda tells us that Bob Betty ⎯ that is, Robert Andrew Betty, Jr. ⎯ died on Aug. 3. It’s a significant loss. Bob helped carve Spartans athletics into a high-achieving athletic program.
Between 1970 through 1991, he took charge of a newly formed athletic department in a growing area in east San Bernardino and western portions of Highland. Long around then, too, San G had plenty of Norton Air Force Base parents sending their kids to that campus.
Some come to mind immediately.
Betty presided over, among other athletes, the Howard sisters. There were four of them at San G.
Led by future Olympic gold medalists Sherri and Denean Howard, they turned the 1979 Southern Section girls’ season around these parts into a single-team event.
“They were so fast,” Betty said at the time. “I hardly even knew they were there. They were only here for a year.”
They moved after one sensational season.
San G played among the best area high schools, and athletes, mostly in the highly respected Citrus Belt League. It’s since been watered down as more cities have constructed more high schools, thus spreading out more talent while adding more athletes.
San G was squarely in the mix.
Baseball’s Tim Miner (“Minor Miracle”) who, among others, led the Spartans to a 1977 CIF championship under a future coaching legend, Dennis Rogers.
Basketball’s Doug Stockham and, later, his son, Ty. Coaching extraordinaires. Huge, huge games in Spartans’ gym, which produced Gerry Wright leaping through the air on numerous slam dunk attempts.
You get extra points if you thought “Sir Jamalot” — Wright’s nickname during his sky-scraping days as a slam-dunking king.
Girls’ soccer coach Steve Lucey had himself a CIF title. They had studs like Kati Dulock, Daunelle Carter and Jackie Powers, among others ⎯ 80-5-1 between 1986-88.
There were three future NFL players on San G’s 1989 football team, coached by Karl Gaytan. Let’s see, CIF Player of the Year Ron Rivers, plus Chris Hayes and Lee Cole were part of that Spartans’ roster that reached the championship game that season.
And who knows what kind of chats he might’ve had with tennis star Stephanie Rehe, who sat in campus classrooms, didn’t play prep tennis, instead taking on pro circuit stars like Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.
Sometimes, it all starts with an athletic director.
Safe to say that Betty presided over the most glamorous ⎯ and successful ⎯ eras in Spartan athletics. Thoughts?
One might remember this guy, Betty, hovering along sidelines at football games; wandering the stadium during a track meet or soccer matches; meandering from the ticket-sellers through Spartan gym during basketball and wrestling; maybe ducking in for those aquatics duels at the pool.
And plenty more.
RIP, Bob Betty (June 12, 1927-Aug. 3, 2020).
* * *
Out of nowhere, it seems, longtime San Bernardino Valley College baseball coach Bill Mierzwik decided to retire last week.
Mierzwik, 60, started coaching the Indians (eventually the Wolverines) — early ’90s — right around the time Betty was leaving his post at San G.
It was a curious notion to hear Mierzwik’s chatter about his 28 seasons on the job.
One line out of a 45-minute conversation (which is never enough, incidentally) with Mierzwik caught my attention. I’ll give you that line in a minute.
More on Mierzwik in the future, but some of his parting thoughts were directed toward his staff, particularly his assistant coaches, topped by Jason Kounas, his longtime pitching coach and expected successor.
“As a part-time [head] coach, I needed help with recruiting and fundraising. My assistants did a lot of that. That made it a lot more easy on me.”
“It’s how I was able to last so long in coaching.”
Here’s the line I was referring to earlier:
He spoke of his past coaches — Yucaipa High’s Jeff Stout (41 years), previous SBVC coach Steve Smith (14 years), plus UC Riverside coach Jack Smitheran (30 years) — which kind of explains how he was groomed for his nearly three decades at SBVC.
“I learned a lot,” said Mierzwik, who’s still teaching at Highland-based San Andreas High School, “and a lot of times, it wasn’t easy.”
Get that, baseball fans?
It’s not supposed to be easy. That’s how you crack the code. Tough coach. Hard workouts. Competitive firepower.
(Got a comment on sports? Anyone have a sports tip? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)