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Houston mourns former UH assistant coach that died in helicopter crash with Kobe Bryant

John Altobelli, his wife and his daughter among the 9 killed in southern California

HOUSTON – John Altobelli, a former University of Houston letterwinner and assistant coach, is among the nine people, including NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, that was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning in southern California.

Altobelli’s wife and his daughter were also killed in the crash, according to the Orange Cast College.

“I am devastated to hear the tragic news that one of our former players and dear friend of mine, John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and his daughter, Alyssa, have passed,” University of Houston head baseball coach Todd Whitting said in a release. “John was a huge supporter of the Cougars and numerous players from Orange Coast College have played for us through the years.”

Altobelli was a two-year letterwinner for the Cougars from 1984 to 1985 and served as an assistant coach in 1987, according to the University of Houston. That year, he graduated from Houston with a degree in physical education.

Whitting met with the media on Monday afternoon to talk about his friendship with Altobelli in depth.

“John was a good friend of mine and my family. Known him 25 years. We’ve had 5 of his players here at UH,” said Whitting. “Really sad day for the program and me personally and college baseball in general lost a good one yesterday.”

“He was one of those people guys. Everybody loved him. That timeframe he played here is still a tight group. It’s hard on a lot of people,” added Whitting.

A two-year team captain and starter in the outfield, Altobelli appeared in 116 consecutive games from Feb. 18, 1984, to May 25, 1985, a mark that continues to rank among the top 10 in program history. He helped the Cougars to an NCAA Regional berth as a senior.

Altobelli led the team in RBI (34) and runs scored (47) in 1984, and in 1985, he drew a single-season record 57 walks.

"The Houston Athletics family is saddened today by the passing of John Altobelli," Vice President for Athletics Chris Pezman said. "John served as a team captain for our baseball program during his time as a student-athlete at UH and worked tirelessly as a coach at Orange Coast College for the last 28 years, developing many players that had the opportunity to play for our university. Our thoughts and prayers will be with John's family in the days ahead."

Altobelli was entering his 28th season as the head coach at Orange Coast College, where he was the longest-tenured baseball coach in school history.

In 2019, Altobelli was selected as the American Baseball Coaches Association’s National Coach of the Year for the Pacific Association Division.


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