Longtime Franklin Regional football coach Greg Botta retires

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021 | 5:58 PM


Maybe there were precursors the end was coming, and the time was right to go.

From an abnormal training camp to the final game, Greg Botta said this past high school football season had a different feel to it.

With the ongoing covid-19 protocols and day-to-day uncertainty, it was a year unlike any in his 27 years at Franklin Regional.

All the while, he continued to miss and think about his family members who are scattered across the country.

When Larry Sellitto, his top assistant and best friend, died on Christmas, Botta’s decision was all but solidified.

The run was over.

The longtime leader of the Panthers and face of the program, Botta announced his retirementTuesday, telling his players and staff the news in a team meeting.

“People say you’ll know when it’s time,” Botta said. “I want to see my family. I have a grandchild I’ve never met, and that hurts. People don’t realize how much we as coaches sacrifice. If you do this job right, it takes all your time.”

Botta finished with 177 career victories, seven conference titles, 21 WPIAL playoff appearances and a WPIAL and PIAA championship.

He contemplated retirement several times in the past. Some recent health concerns also played a part in this being the year to call it a career.

“This was harder for me than when I left teaching,” he said of stepping down. “I want to travel the world. I want to go to Italy. I want to go to Greece. And Sicily. Longevity is not a part of the Botta family. My parents died young. You have to take some time to live.”

Botta has family members in Philadelphia, San Diego, Phoenix and Texas, among other places. He said coaching his two sons was one of his greatest joys.

Westmoreland County’s longest-tenured coach no more, he saw the Panthers’ playoff streak of 16 straight appearances come to an end in 2020 as the team finished 4-3. That being said, the WPIAL took fewer teams to the playoffs this year, and Franklin Regional would have qualified in any other year.

This year was far from normal, and Botta felt it.

“We still had a winning season in a tough conference, and our kids battled,” he said. “I am so proud of them. I had the most inexperienced line I’ve had. I love these kids. This program is my other family.”

Botta gave up playing the game when he was a sophomore at IUP after six concussions. He then turned his attention to the prospect of coaching.

He started coaching as an assistant at IUP in 1980 when he was 20. He played linebacker there after transferring from N.C. State. That followed a solid high school career at Penn Hills.

He started as a defensive coordinator at Franklin Regional in 1992 and took over the head coaching reins two years later from Abby Mauro.

The next year, the Panthers reached the WPIAL title game at Three Rivers Stadium.

“When I took over, we had the longest losing streak in the WPIAL,” Botta said. “I had so many people telling me, ‘You’ll never win there. No one wins at Franklin Regional.’ ”

A decade later came his crown jewel: WPIAL and PIAA championships in 2005. The Panthers went 15-1 that fall.

A Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Hall of Fame inductee, Botta retired from teaching in 2011. He is known for producing hard-nosed, physical teams that never backed down from a challenge and usually excelled at linebacker.

Before Botta broke up his final team meeting Tuesday, he reminded the group to start lifting for next season.

“I enjoyed getting up every day and coaching football,” he said. “It’s my passion. I was truly blessed to do this as long as I did.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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