Each time I see the "Potter Pete" Coplin banner hanging on the wall of East Liverpool's Potter Fieldhouse, it brings both a smile and a frown to my face. The smile is because I remember what a supporter of Potter athletics "Potter Pete" Coplin was. The frown is because I know that Coplin has passed on.
Arthur Eugene Coplin passed away on November 7, 2013, but his memory lives on in the minds of Potter fans as well as his wife Lulu Mae and sons Tom and Jerry.
Coplin operated the scoreboard at Patterson Field from the early 1950s until a heart attack in 2004 prevented him from climbing the stairs. The pressbox at Patterson Field is named in his honor. Coplin was involved in Potter basketball at least as far back as 1968, when he was coaching in the youth league sponsored by the Nonpareil Club. Coplin donated hours and hours over the years to Potter basketball, assisting the players and coaches. The Pete Coplin Spirit Award is given annually by the Potter Rebound Club to a member of the community, who through their actions, show a true love and support for the Potters.
With that thought in mind, I decided to ask members of the Potter basketball family for their remembrances of "Potter Pete."
I contacted former Potter players Josh Martin, Dan Swoger, Nate Conley and Josh Reed, as well as long-time scorekeeper Terry Stewart, clock operator Bob Bosco and scoreboard operator Al Johnson for their memories of Coplin. Currently, Conley is the Potters head coach and Reed is his assistant coach. A column on Coplin wouldn't be complete without thoughts from Nick Aloi, the all-time winningest basketball coach in Potter history.
Bob Bosco: "When I think of the Potters, I think of Pete. He was a Potter through and through. He was dedicated to the Potter family; not just basketball, but other sports as well. The players loved him."
Josh Reed: "Pete was the most loyal man I've ever met. He was a great guy. It didn't matter if you were going good or going bad, he was still there to cheer you up. Wins and losses didn't matter, he truly cared about the kids. I don't think anyone will ever replace him. I still think about him a lot."
Al Johnson: "Pete represented the embodiment of Potter sports, in both football and basketball. Ever since I was a kid, he was always there. He was a vital part of the football and basketball programs. Pete represented what Potter sports are all about. He was extremely down-to-earth. He treated everyone the same. I will always hold a soft spot in my heart for him."
Nick Aloi: "Pete was officially listed as the equipment manager, but he was much more than that. Pete was a moral supporter of the whole team. He would never back down from a confrontation if he thought he was right. I don't remember Pete ever missing a practice, open gym, or even summer workout. In the later years, he would even schedule his doctor appointments around practices.
Pete had an unbelievable loyalty to the entire program, coaches, players, everybody involved with the program. He was with me all 20 years. The first time I ever went to my office in the Fieldhouse, he was there waiting for me. He said, 'If you want me, I'll be there.' Of course, I wanted him."
Dan Swoger: "Pete was a constant figure. He was a motivator and had a toughness that you don't see much of today. He was direct. He didn't mince words. Pete was a positive person. As I look back, he truly rounded out the coaching staff. He was a buffer between the players and the other coaches. He helped to make the program the success that it was. We all had respect for him. He was a figure that you couldn't duplicate. Pete was a once in a lifetime person."
Josh Martin: "Pete would selflessly go about his duties in support of the athletic program always making sure Potter student-athletes and coaches would succeed.
Pete always made new players feel that they were becoming part of something special when they started with the basketball team. You had to pay your dues, whether that was carrying around his trunks, wearing second-rated uniforms as a sophomore or having to help with the laundry. Those chores built character and made you realize that whatever you had to endure was worth it."
Terry Stewart: "Pete was always there, especially for football and basketball. He wasn't just around. He was involved in all phases. He was the epitome of Potter football and basketball. Pete had a great sense of humor. If a player had a bad practice, Pete would talk to them. It wasn't a job for Pete. It was all about the kids. He was an integral part of the program. He truly cared about the kids, even those who didn't get to play much."
Nate Conley: "Pete was a tremendous guy. Pete worked extremely well with Coach Aloi. He could be very tough, but he was also the first guy to give you a hug. I remember Pete on the way to summer league games telling stories. His knowledge of Potter football and basketball and the tradition and success was amazing."
To sum up "Potter Pete's" relationship with the Potters, it can simply be said, "Pete loved the Potters, and the Potters loved Pete."