COACH PETE LIAPIS, FULLERTON BOYS CLUB
Coach and mentor to thousands
Pete Liapis was athletic director of Fullerton Boys Club for 22 years
By ROBIN HINCH
The Orange County Register
Brigg Owens was only 11 years old when Pete Liapis caught him stealing bikes from in front of the Fullerton Boys Club more than 40 years ago.
Pete, then the club's athletic director, took the youngster home and told him, in front of his mother, that Brigg had two choices: He could go to Juvenile Hall or he could become active in the Boys Club.
Owens chose the Boys Club, got involved in football and ultimately played in a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins as part of a long, successful pro career -- one of the many athletes who got their start under Pete's stern, but loving, supervision.
Pete was 83 when he died July 29.
While coaching everything from baseball to boxing, basketball, track, wrestling, tumbling and judo from 1954 to 1976, Pete also built self-esteem and instilled honesty and honor in thousands of young boys. And he organized and ran one of the largest youth basketball intramural programs in the country.
Pete grew up in Price, Utah, joined the Marines just before graduating from high school and was a member of the Carlson Raiders Battalion in the Pacific Islands.
After his discharge in 1945, he returned to Price, enrolled in junior college, and met his future wife, Alberta Leo, who was dating one of Pete's best friends.
"I'm going to marry you," Pete said when he first met her at a dance. When she said she was dating his friend, Pete vowed to wait for her. They were married in 1948.
In 1954, they moved to California.
They were driving through Fullerton one day and passed a building under construction. Pete stopped to see if they needed an extra hand. He was hired and ended up helping construct the Fullerton Boys Club for which he became athletic director.
Pete could not believe his good fortune. "Are they really gonna pay me to teach kids to play sports?" he asked Bert.
A former boxer who once won the National Golden Gloves and International Heavyweight Amateur Athletic Union championship, Pete also scored one of the fastest knockouts - 32 seconds in the first round - in AAU history. But it wasn't just boxing -- he loved all sports. And more than sports, he loved good sportsmanship.
"He taught us the importance of teamwork and fair play, along with the fundamentals of the game," Owens said.
Pete also made the kids clean the gym and the locker room at the end of practice. He was, Owens said, "very much the disciplinarian."
One thing he hated was kids bouncing the basketball while he was trying to talk to the team. "Don't bounce the ball in the gym!" he'd holler. Pete yelled quite a bit.
But the discipline came with equal amounts of love and guidance and Pete is credited with mentoring thousands of children and nudging them to success.
Among them was baseball Hall of Famer Gary Carter, who played for the Expos, Mets, Giants and Dodgers. His mother died when he was 9 and Bert and Pete were like his second parents.
"Pete was stern and had a stern voice," Carter said, "but he was very caring and diligent in his work. He poured his heart into the Boys Club."
The kids loved to play for Pete and his baskeball teams were known throughout the state as the ones to try to beat.
Pete treated everyone as he wanted to be treated - with gentleness and respect. And he taught the youngsters confidence.
"If you want something hard enough and believe it, you can do it," he said. "Don't let anyone tell you you can't. And don't be intimidated.
He could, however, be a little intimidating. In fact, his family likes to think he's in heaven now, yelling, "Don't bounce the basketball on the floor!"
Also interviewed for this story: Wife, Bert; friend, Kevin McCarthy.
Contact the writer: 714-796-6082 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Liapis turned boys into men: BHC resident, who mentored future pro athletes in Fullerton, passes away at 83
By DANIEL McKILLOPTuesday, August 7, 2007 11:35 PM PDT
The Daily NewsBULLHEAD CITY - One of the few people who lived the life of the fictional character George Bailey played by Jimmy Stewart in the movie “It's a Wonderful Life” was Pete Liapis, 83, who passed away peacefully in Bullhead City on July 29.
Bailey, for those who do not know, enriched the lives of just about everyone he came in contact with during the 1947 classic.
“He touched several youngsters during the crossroads of their lives,” Rock Liapis said, “and set them on the right path from their childhood into adolescence through adulthood.”