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June 14, 2011 > Michaletos inducted into coaches hall of Fame

Michaletos inducted into coaches hall of Fame

By Kevin Yin, Photos courtesy of Jerry Schott

Pete Michaletos, who served as John F. Kennedy High School's head football coach for 46 years, was inducted into the California Coaches Association (CCA) Hall of Fame along with three other coaches in a ceremony Saturday, June 11, at the Doubletree Hotel in Sacramento.

"I'm really honored. Honored and surprised," said Michaletos. "You do something that you love doing, and someone wants to give you an award for that. It's kind of nice."

CCA tends to induct about three new members into its Hall of Fame annually, but is adding four this year. The other three inductees this year are Jesuit High School boys soccer coach Paul Rose, Notre Dame High School softball coach Joe Given and Palo Alto High School football coach Earl Hansen.

The criteria for induction into the CCA Hall of Fame include that the inductee must have coached for at least 30 years (with the majority of that time in California), made an outstanding contribution to coaching, exemplify the ideals of the CCA and demonstrate dedication to the athletes and the sport he or she coaches in.

Michaletos was Kennedy's original football coach, guiding the program through a period that saw nine different presidents in office, from Lyndon Johnson to Barrack Obama. Michaletos also taught physical education, mathematics and served as Kennedy's Athletic Director for over 25 years, while stressing the importance of mentorship over results on the field.

"I don't know who said it-I certainly didn't invent it-but I've always tried to live by this: love who you teach, not what you teach. I believe that when you coach on campus, you do what you can to teach them and help them grow into men, and if you can transmit that through your football teaching, that's great."

During the course of his 46-year stint at Kennedy, Michaletos learned to redefine what his role was as a coach. He recalled a time while playing football at Utah State for his mentor John Ralston when the venerable coach gave him some invaluable advice:

"One day I was coming off the field and he asked me what I wanted to do, and I said 'Be a high school coach,' " recollected Michaletos. " 'What are you going to do when you get there?' he asked. I told him about the great defense I was going to build and this great offense and he says, 'No, no, no. You're going to become part of a school. If a good school needs your help, you're going to help. If they need an assistant badminton coach, you're going to apply. You're going to do whatever it takes to keep that school moving, not just go there to coach football.'

"That's what I've tried to live by," Michaletos concluded.

Michaletos' wife, Jan, has been by her husband's side throughout his whole career. The couple has been married for 47 years, and Mrs. Michaletos said she was more proud of what the honor of being inducted said about her husband as a person than for his prowess as a football instructor.

"We're so appreciative of everything that everyone has done to show their appreciation," said Mrs. Michaletos. "I was very, very pleased that the California Coaches Association chose to honor my husband based on the kind of man he is and what he's done with kids rather than on how many football games he's won or lost. We're just so happy about it. It's a beautiful way to end a career."

Both Coach and Mrs. Michaletos cited the value of their relationship with the students at Kennedy as one of the most rewarding aspects of their long association. One of the things Michaletos said he admired about the community that comprised the school was their dogged determination to stay together.

"It's the kids and the parents, they're unbelievable," Michaletos said. "Through the 1970s, 80s and 90s, they tried to close it down, but we fought to keep that school open. They won't roll over and die. There's not a lot of places that can do that."

There was a time, Jan Michaletos related, that retirement seemed to be an almost foreign convention. Both she and her husband used to laugh at friends who eagerly counted the days until they could withdraw from the world of employment. Now, however, she has come to appreciate its luxuries.

"I always thought he would go from the field to the grave," she said. "I never thought I would have the blessing of having him with me as a retired person and enjoying him the way I am. It's really very nice."

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