By Luke Johnson
One of Antioch High School’s greatest and most accomplished legends died from natural causes on June 8. Joe Gambetta coached the golf team to 22 League Championships, a school record, and on top of that won the biggest prize of them all, a State Championship, in 1987.
Born on Nov. 28, 1920, Gambetta grew up on his grandfather’s farm with three siblings in Novatto during the Great Depression. He served in World War II as an Air Force pilot who transported supplies to France and brought wounded soldiers back to England. After the war, he retired with the rank of Major.
Gambetta came to Antioch in 1957 and taught U.S. History and Driver’s Education for 34 years. He coached numerous sports, but focused on golf and football. In 1970, he led the football team to its first victory against arch-rival Pittsburg in 20 years. When he retired from teaching and coaching in 1991, his successor Ron Remington named an annual golf tournament after him, The Joe Gambetta Invitational, which is still played today.
He coached PGA competitor Larry Silveira and Antioch Sports Legend Hall of Famer Scott Olds, who defeated future superstar Phil Mickelson in the 1987 State Tournament. One of the most impressive footnotes of Gambetta’s career is that he took a school from a blue collar town, and beat schools from upper scale cities such as San Ramon, Pleasanton and Danville in a country club sport.
Statistical information provided by Tom Lamothe via the Antioch Sports Legends Historical Museum.