College baseball coach dies in crash that killed Bryant
CALABASAS, Calif. (AP) — John Altobelli, the longtime baseball coach at Orange Coast College, was killed along with his wife and daughter in the helicopter crash Sunday that also took the lives of retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and Bryant's daughter, Gianna.
The 56-year-old Altobelli died along with his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa, who was about 13 and played on the same basketball team as Bryant's daughter, said Altobelli's younger brother, Tony Altobelli, the sports information director at the school. They were among the nine people aboard the helicopter when it crashed around 10 a.m. Sunday in Calabasas, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
John Altobelli spent 27 seasons as coach at the community college in Costa Mesa, California. The team won a state championship last year and Altobelli was named national coach of the year. He led the team to more than 700 victories and four state titles.
Among the players he coached were future major leaguers Jeff McNeil, now with the New York Mets, and Donnie Murphy, who played for six big league teams from 2004-14. McNeil played for Altobelli in 2012 with the Brewster Whitecaps, a summer collegiate team in the Cape Cod League, ESPN reported.
“One of my favorite coaches I have ever played for and one of the main reasons I got a chance to play professional baseball,” McNeil tweeted. “Both the baseball and basketball world lost a great one today.”
Orange Coast College announced the creation of a memorial fund for the Altobelli family.
“John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball,” 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.”
The team was scheduled to start its season on Tuesday.
“He treated every player like his own son," Orange Coast first baseman Justin Brodt told the Orange County Register. “He wanted the best for everybody involved. That’s what made him such a successful coach and such a great guy.”