Barton joins AAHS

John Barton said he had no intentions to get into coaching after he completed his football playing career at West Virginia University.

“I’m one of those guys that just wanted to get into teaching,” Barton said.

He ended up on Joe Nastasi’s staff at Northern Bedford instead, the first of roughly a half-dozen coaching positions the 48-year-old Barton’s held while coaching each of the last 25 falls.

When his sons graduated from high school, Barton intended to hang it up, at least for a while, and stepped down as the head coach at Hollidaysburg Area High School.

But, just when Barton thought he was out, John Franco pulled him back in.

After some encouragement/prodding from the Altoona High coach, Barton applied and, on Monday night, was approved as an assistant on Franco’s Mountain Lion staff by the AASD school board.

“I was a little nervous about giving [coaching] up cold turkey,” said Barton, who won 97 games in 18 years as a head coach, including 86 at the helm of the Golden Tigers from 1999-2012. “I thought this would keep my feet wet.”

Barton will coach the running back and linebackers at Altoona, but Franco said his primary contributions will be on the offensive side of the ball. Barton was an offensive lineman at West Virginia.

Franco approached Barton about coming aboard after Barton resigned as coach at Hollidaysburg.

“John and I have been really good friends since 1999. We coached several all-star games together, and we became good coaching friends,” Franco said. “I thought he would be a valuable member of our staff. He has great expertise. I saw it as an opportunity to get a high-quality coach.”

Barton only had wanted to come on board in a part-time capacity. His sons, Chad and Matt, are playing college ball at Kutztown and Catholic, respectively, this fall.

“John’s really good with all kinds of situations. I just said my sons are my first priority. When they need me, I’m going to be there,” Barton said. “It hit a point in late June and July where I had to make a decision. He was patient.”

Barton remains a teacher at Hollidaysburg. New Golden Tigers coach Homer DeLattre said he was hoping to keep Barton, who still teaches at Hollidaysburg, as part of his staff or involved in the program in some way, but Barton declined.

“It would be unfair to him for me to be on his staff. That would be a terrible thing to do to him. He’s a good guy. I really like him. I think there will be a time when I could coach with him, but, this year, it’s got to be his team,” Barton said. “The kids were so used to me. It’s not fair to the kids. They’d be looking at him, then looking at me. They were my kids.”

DeLattre said he’s had good conversations with Barton.

“He’s helped me a lot in the transition,” DeLattre said. “I’m happy for him. It’s great that he has an opportunity to keep doing something that he loves.”

Barton said he’d probably evaluate year-to-year as whether he would keep coaching, but he thought the new position would give him a lot more flexibility with his schedule, which he needed.

“It’s a huge difference between being a head coach and an assistant,” Barton said. “It’s two different worlds.”

In addition to Barton, the Altoona Area School Board also approved the hirings of girls soccer coach Anthony Lang, girls assistant soccer coach Michele Hallinan, softball coach Aileen Davis, softball assistant Chris Tromm and junior high coaches Pat McKinney (seventh grade football), Dorothy Helsel (girls soccer) and Timothy Mitchell (head softball).