NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Legendary New Providence varsity football coach Frank Bottone passed away Thursday morning after suffering a stroke.
The 86-year-old lifelong Pioneer had been in hospice since Tuesday. The Bottone Family said he was comfortable and peaceful and asked for thoughts and prayers for him at this difficult time.
Bottone came to New Providence after spending the first six years of his career at Madison High School. Following two JV seasons, the Pioneer varsity program started in 1965 with a 2-7 record. Two years later, Bottone and the Pioneers had their first state championship.
Berkeley Heights Mayor Bob Woodruff was the quarterback of the 1967 championship team and was the New Providence's first All-American athlete.
"Frank was a dear friend," Woodruff said. "He is a legend in New Providence sports. He is New Providence Football. He will be missed by hundreds of men who are proud to say they played for Frank Bottone."
Bottone led the Pioneers to seven more state titles in his 46-year career. He retired in 2010 following his eighth championship.
Over the course of his nearly five decades as the Pioneer head coach, Bottone amassed 334 victories, fourth in all-time wins among New Jersey coaches. Aside from his eight state championship rings, his teams won 15 conference championships and appeared in the state tournament 26 times.
One of Bottone’s most successful runs in New Providence occurred between 1987 and 1989 when the Pioneers won 33 games in a row, including three state championships. The team missed a fourth straight title in 1990 on a game-winning “Hail Mary.”
Don Carpenter, who coached for Bottone from 1963 to 1999 and became New Providence Athletic Director and owner of Don-Tre Driving School, met him when he was 21 years old and the families remain close. He credits Bottone for who he is today.
"He is part of what I am today," Carpenter said. Carpenter and Bottone could be seen on the sidelines of many New Providence football games, including most recently the New Providence vs Roselle Park game on Oct. 21.
Bottone played for Caldwell High School and continued at University of Maryland for one year, before transferring to Panzer College, now Montclair State University.
Despite being off the sidelines for the past seven years, Bottone’s message is still being taught to the current crop of Pioneers through assistant coach Art Cattano.
Cattano spent his entire coaching career on Bottone’s sidelines, taking over as head coach for one season in 2011. He told the current team, "Forget about the wins and losses, I want you all to know he was a great man who loved us all long after our playing days were over."
"He is a true legend whose mark is not just left on the New Providence football program, nor the town as a whole—his legacy stretches throughout the state and even throughout the country. Although his 334 wins and 8 state titles are impressive, his success is measured in so much more than the wins," said New Providence Athletic Director Vinny Carangelo.
"Coach had the uncanny ability to connect with every student athlete to don a Pioneer helmet and jersey. Coach made it a priority to coach every single player with the same intensity and vigor—whether they be a two way starter or the last player on the depth chart. As a result, every single player felt as if they were an integral member of his teams. It was this philosophy that was so impactful on his success, as his teams all believed in one another and always worked towards a common goal.
"Although he has passed, his legacy lives on in the hundreds upon hundreds of young men whose lives he helped to shape and mold during his 48 years as head coach of the New Providence Pioneers. He truly will be greatly missed," said Corangelo.
The outpouring of condolences and tributes for Coach Bottone can be seen across social media and many credit Bottone to turning them into men they are now.
Mayor Al Morgan, who played for Bottone, said, "Truly heartbroken. I sat with Frank and Betsy last Thanksgiving at the Thanksgiving football game. Coach Bottone touched the lives of all his football players and everyone he had contact with. He was a man of great character and inspiration to all. New Providence as well as many others mourn his passing. He will always be remembered fondly for his good work, his dedication to his students, peers, and friends, and for helping to put New Providence on the map. He will be missed."
Former Mayor of Warren and current Township Committeeman Mick Marion said, "It’s with deep sadness to hear of our legendary coach Bottone’s passing. My thoughts and prayers are with the Bottone family. Playing for coach in the early 80’s was something you looked forward to as a kid. Little did I know the type of impact his leadership and teaching both on and off the football field, would have in terms of life lessons. I can truly say he’s had a valuable impact on my life, as well as many others. He was more then just a great football coach, he was role model that had an enormous impact on all the people he came in contact with, especially at the high school level. He will be missed but never forgotten”
Visitation will be held Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 13 and 14, from 3 to 8 p.m., at Quinn-Hopping Funeral Home, 145 E. Mt. Pleasant Ave., Livingston, NJ.
The funeral will be Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 10 a.m. at St. Philomena's Church, 386 S. Livingston Ave., Livingston. Interment will be at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, 225 Ridgedale Ave., East Hanover, NJ.