Renowned Coach John Altobelli Killed In Helicopter Crash With Kobe Bryant
John Altobelli, the renowned junior college coach and former manager of the Cape Cod League’s Brewster Whitecaps, was among nine people killed Sunday in the helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
Altobelli’s wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa, were also killed in the crash, according to the Whitecaps.
Altobelli, 56, was entering his 28th season as the head coach at Orange Coast (Calif.) JC. The American Baseball Coaches Association named him last year’s Pacific Association Division National Coach of the Year after he led OCC to a state championship.
“John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball,” Orange Coast Athletic Director Jason Kehler said in a statement.
“He truly personified what it means to be a baseball coach. The passion that he put into the game, but more importantly his athletes, was second to none - he treated them like family. Our deepest condolences go out to the Altobelli family during this time of tragedy.”
Altobelli developed OCC into one of California’s premier junior college programs. He amassed more than 700 career wins, led the Pirates to four state championships and produced a long list of players who went on to play in the majors, including former utilityman Donnie Murphy and current Mariners reliever Brandon Brennan. Altobelli also served as Brewster’s manager in the Cape Cod League from 2012-14, where he managed Aaron Judge, Ryon Healy and Jeff McNeil, among other future major leaguers.
Altobelli was a two-year starting outfielder at Houston and led the Cougars to an NCAA Regional berth in 1985. He played part of one season professionally with the Miami Marlins in the Class A Florida State League in 1985 before entering coaching.
He returned to Houston and served as an assistant in 1987 before spending five seasons as an assistant at UC Irvine. OCC hired Altobelli as its coach after the 1992 season.
It was the start of a storied coaching career that would span three decades. Altobelli guided OCC to a 705-474-4 record (.592), eight state Final Four appearances and state championships in 2009, 2014, 2015 and 2019.
Altobelli is survived by his son J.J., a Red Sox amateur scout who covers Southern California, and his daughter Alexis.