Steve Botkin and his mom Clara were practically inseparable when he was progressing in school while growing up in Tucson.
“When I was at Schumaker Elementary School, my mom worked in the cafeteria there, and then when I went to Magee Middle School, she worked at Magee … she just kept following me,” Botkin said with a laugh. “When I went to Sahuaro, she was at Sahuaro, but she was there a little bit before that.
“It’s funny. I used to tell people she wanted to keep an eye on me, make sure I wasn’t ditching and things like that.”
Botkin, the most successful girls basketball coach in Southern Arizona history in addition to being Sahuaro’s athletic director the last three years, is now following his mom into the Sahuaro High School Hall of Fame.
The Sahuaro Cougar Foundation Board voted unanimously in a ZOOM meeting last week to induct Botkin when it hosts the hall of fame breakfast ceremony in late October or early November.
Fran Johnson, the secretary-treasurer of the board and wife of former Sahuaro vice principal of athletics Harry Johnson, nominated Botkin.
Former Sahuaro athletic director Sandy Novak, of whom Botkin replaced in 2017-18 after she retired after 30 years at the school, principal Bobby Estrella and board member Chuck Adams (retired faculty member at Sahuaro) wrote a letter of recommendation to the board for Botkin’s induction into the Hall of Fame.
Clara, a faculty dining-room worker at Sahuaro for more than two decades, was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in 2008, the same year legendary quarterback Rodney Peete was inducted. Botkin’s coaching mentor, the late Dick McConnell, was inducted in 1995.
“I am honored to get into the Sahuaro Hall of Fame. I think that’s quite an honor,” Botkin said. “I walk into the gym and look up there at those pictures and you’ve got the Rodney Peetes and the Dick McConnells. It’s pretty special, so I’m super excited.”
Botkin, 51, is a 1986 graduate of Sahuaro. He has coached at his alma mater for 25 years, the last 19 as the girls basketball head coach since the 2001-02 season. The other six years were as an assistant coach under Jim Scott from 1986-92.
He has compiled a 550-180 career record in 25 years as a head coach. He coached at Rincon/University for six seasons before he was hired in 2001 to replace Scott, who retired after 14 years as Sahuaro’s coach.
Sahuaro’s 28-2 record this season with high-profile junior forward Alyssa Brown is the most wins in a season for Botkin, who took the Cougars to the 4A state championship game for the first time. They lost that game to Seton Catholic.
Botkin’s 550 wins are the sixth-most in state history, only one win behind No. 5 Tom Bunger, who was 551-221 in 28 years at Gilbert and Mesa Mountain View. The Southern Arizona coach with the next amount of wins behind Botkin is former Marana coach Mike Dyer with 337. Scott achieved 333 wins.
“It will be special to be in the Hall of Fame with my mom,” Botkin said. “I know mom was super excited when I told her because she worked at Sahuaro for 22 years and people loved her.
“When I was hired to coach at Sahuaro in 2001, she had already retired. She had a heart attack and we all felt it would be best for her to retire although she wanted to work some with me coaching there. When people found out I was her son, my stock rose tremendously there. I was so welcomed after that.”
Botkin’s family is synonymous with Sahuaro. Steve’s brother Rick was a star quarterback as a senior there who tragically died in an automobile accident late in the 1977 season. The Rick Botkin Memorial Game has been played the last 41 years at Sahuaro in his honor.
Arizona Girls Basketball Coaching Career Coaching RecordSource: Arizona Interscholastic Association. * Denotes active coach
|*-Karen Self||758||154||29||Seton Catholic Prep|
|Larry Moore||604||384||51||River Valley||Seton|
|Tom Bunger||551||221||28||Gilbert||Mountain View|
Steve, Rick and two other brothers — Michael and Harold — were raised around sports because of their dad Bud, who was an electrician by trade and also coached his sons in youth baseball.
“He was a really good basketball player in middle school and in high school and then he ended up coaching us in baseball so I got to play for him,” Steve said. “My brothers and I, we all grew up at the park, and our parents were a big influence on us growing up.”
Naturally, his mom was there to see Steve grow in sports, just like she was at his different schools when he was progressing as a student. His mom and dad attend nearly every Sahuaro game. They have watched about 530 of his victories.
“It’s always been great to be able to have both of them, my mom and my dad, there in the stands watching all my games,” Steve said. “My family means the world to me, for sure.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.