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 Kobe Bryant and the retired NBA superstar’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.
Tony Altobelli is a former Killeen area resident and Killeen Daily Herald sportswriter for about three years until leaving in 2006, according to the Killeen Daily Herald.
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 a national coach of the year by the American Baseball Coaches Association. He led the team to more than 700 victories and four state titles.
Among the players he coached at OCC was Donnie Murphy, who played for five major league teams from 2004-14. Altobelli also was the head coach of the Brewster Whitecaps from 2012-14 in the Cape Cod Baseball League, a summer proving ground for elite college prospects. There he coached more than a dozen players who have reached the big leagues, including All-Star outfielders Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees and Jeff McNeil of the New York Mets.
“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.”
The Whitecaps posted a statement on Twitter that said Altobelli and his wife are survived by another daughter, Alexis, and son JJ, who also played for the team.