Mike Arte, who retired at the end of last season after 41 years of coaching – 34 with the girls basketball program at Gonzaga Prep – was picking up a couple of his grandchildren from day camp at the school last month when he ran into the school’s principal, Cindy Reopelle.
Arte wasn’t surprised when Reopelle told him she saw his son Geoff at the school earlier in the day.
“She goes, ‘Hey, I gotta tell you, Geoff and (Geoff’s son) Blaine were here today running around,’ and – she’s been here as long as I have – she said, ‘It reminded me of you and Geoff following you around the school when he was a little kid.’ ”
Such is the case when a son follows into his father’s footsteps.
On June 1, Gonzaga Prep announced that Geoff Arte, an accomplished coach in his own right, was replacing his father as girls basketball coach at the school.
“To have your son take over for you after 34 years?” Mike Arte said. “I think it’s extremely satisfying.
“And people don’t have to worry because he gets all his best qualities from his mom.”
Out on a high note
Mike Arte announced his retirement from coaching and teaching at the conclusion of the Bullpups’ season – in which the team went 18-5 overall and 17-3 in the Greater Spokane League – after an illustrious 34 years at the helm.
He’s not leaving the school completely though, as he’s agreed to a part-time assistant position within the athletic department, at least for the next school year.
Arte began his career in Kellogg in 1981, coaching junior high and JV boys basketball. In 1983, he was hired at G-Prep and coached JV boys basketball and freshman baseball.
In 1988, Arte was named varsity girls basketball head coach. In more than three decades, he amassed a record of 481-293, including six GSL titles, and was named GSL Coach of the Year four times. He took teams to the state tournament six times and brought home State 4A titles in 2014 and 2015.
He was also the athletic director for nine years and spent time as the dean of students and academic vice principal.
“I made the decision about a week after our last playoff game,” Arte said.
“I just felt we had such a good year. And I felt it was just the right time to go out because of the enjoyment that I had this year. We really exceeded expectations this past year and that was way beyond what people thought we were going to be, and then just the joy I had from this group. It was, it just felt like the right time to retire.”
Arte contemplated the decision throughout the season.
“I ended up with 41 years of coaching in total, 34 years coaching the girls,” he said. “I don’t keep records, I didn’t know what my win total was or anything. But I coached 774 games at Gonzaga Prep. It’s a lot. And that’s not counting summer, that’s actual games during the season.
“But it just felt right. I don’t know how to explain it, but it was the right time.”
Arte is proud of his record, but even prouder of the legacy he leaves with the program.
“Everyone would say the obvious answer is winning a couple of state championships, right?” he said. “But I say no to that.
“The biggest accomplishment I’ve had is building a program that not only emphasizes the elite players, the varsity level players, but we really train and emphasize the lower-level teams and making basketball a positive high school experience – not just for the varsity kids, but for the kids that just want to have fun.”
Arte said high school sports might be losing some perspective in that regard.
“I think high school sports are under siege a little bit,” he said. “We emphasize the top levels way too much, and we don’t emphasize the lower levels and so we’re starting to lose participation. And I think that’s a travesty to high school sports.”
He said that carries over to club sports.
“They get told at young age that they need to specialize in order for them to be good, but I gotta tell you not all kids want to be elite athletes,” he said. “Some kids just want to do it for fun, and that’s what we’re losing.”
Arte will miss the classroom as much as the gym.
“People see me as the coach. I’m a teacher,” he said. “Most of my time is spent in the classroom. You know, I spend six classes a day teaching kids. That’s where my fulfillment comes from.
“Being a teacher translates into being a coach, too, because a good coach is also a good teacher.”
Back to the beginning
Geoff Arte returns to his alma mater from Central Valley, where he’s been an assistant and acting head coach in the boys basketball program, as well as head coach for boys cross country and girls track and field.
He has garnered recognition as GSL Coach of the Year for track and field three times and led the team to eight GSL titles. As acting boys basketball head coach, he led the team to the State 4A tournament in 2022.
“I think it’s exciting because it’s something new,” he said. “But I’ve been on a basketball team for it seems like the last 25 years, so I’m just moving over a seat – trying to do all those things that as an assistant you don’t really realize the head coach is doing until you move over.
“It’s hard to leave CV, obviously, because that community was so special to me for the last 15 years. But I’m joining another great community and it just made sense for my family, too.”
Part of the pull to go back to G-Prep was coaching just one sport. Geoff and his wife just added their fourth child , who was born two months prematurely.
“It probably shouldn’t have taken that for me to realize all the stuff my wife was doing without me, but that was kind of a big motivating factor in the decision to leave (CV) was making sure I was available more at home.”
At home with family, and “at home” at G-Prep.
“It’s obviously a community that’s been pretty transformative in my life,” Arte said. “You know, that’s where I was married. That’s where all my kids were baptized. I spent the first 18 years of my life running around the halls.
“It’s kind of funny when I walk through it now, it feels way smaller than I remember it. But that’s because I was so little, but yeah, I’m excited for my kids to be able to have that same experience.”
Arte didn’t initially race to apply for the position.
“One day I was joking with some track coaches at a meet, and I was like, ‘Wonder who’s taking over for my dad,’ and they were like, ‘You should think about it.’ A week later I was applying for the job.
“I didn’t tell him I was applying until the day before I went to the interview.”
“I was out mowing the backyard,” Mike Arte said. “My phone rang and he told me, ‘I think I better tell you something.’ I go, ‘Oh no, what’s wrong?’ He says, ‘I’m interviewing for your job.’
“I was a little shocked. But I also had a tremendous swell of pride that he would be the one to follow in my footsteps. That was my first reaction, and he’s gonna do great.”
Goeff Arte understands the big shoes he has to fill in a unique situation, but also appreciates the resource he has at his disposal.
“I do think it’s incredibly valuable,” he said. “Just the basketball knowledge of 750-some games.
“It’s nice to have people you trust around. So that really helps.”
Arte holds the CV community in high regard and wasn’t looking to leave.
“This was an opportunity that I knew probably would never present itself again in my teaching career, so I felt like I had to take it. It’s fulfilling in that way.
“I’m excited to be a part of a community that has been so important in my life.”
“I expect him to be there for 25 years coaching basketball,” Mike Arte said.