Gene Cotter, whose "Basketball Jones" camps have instructed more than 25,000 children over the past 20 years throughout Northern California, was killed around 9 p.m. Monday night when the van the 44-year-old was driving entered Highway 156 at Lucy Brown Lane and struck a Silverado truck broadside on the passenger side. Cotter's van flipped and he sustained fatal head injuries, according to San Benito County Sheriff's Captain Eric Taylor.
An autopsy is pending. Taylor told BenitoLink that the driver of the other vehicle sustained minor injuries and was treated and released from Hazel Hawkins Hospital.
Hollister resident Cotter, whose company was founded by him and his brothers Ed and Will, was being remembered fondly Tuesday by friends, campers and colleagues, alike.
San Benito High School junior varsity boys' basketball coach Anthony Butler said that he was "still in shock" about Cotter's passing and that "our community lost a great man." He said Cotter "was a great husband, father, friend and coach. All he wanted was to help kids and people around him."
Butler, who played with and against Cotter in local recreation leagues, called him "The most fierce and competitive person I know on the court. He always pushed you to the max and made you a better person on and off the court."
Gavilan College men's basketball coach David Kaplansky said Cotter was "instrumental to our community. His passion for basketball was tremendous for our student-athletes. He was a tireless worker and his energy and enthusiasm was contagious."
Kaplansky said Cotter "loved the game and always gave back. We will miss him as a coach and friend."
San Benito High School Assistant Principal Jeremy Dirks, who said Cotter was his first friend when Dirks moved to Hollister a few years ago, recalled "Geno" as a "wonderful father and husband." In a social media post, Dirks addressed his friend directly:
"I will remember the amazing friend and hooper you were, I will remember the countless hours spent in the gym together, I will remember barefoot dunks and reggae playlists, I will remember driving through fields on the way to camp and intense discussions about hoop on the way home, I will remember summer nights and backyard parties, and I will forever cherish the friendship we had. You were a great man loved by so many people and that was a direct reflection on the selfless man you were. Always a helping hand. You are now resting in paradise looking down on and watching over us. I love you and you will forever be in my heart."
Cotter is survived by his wife, Tiffany — who works at San Benito High School — and children Bailey, 11, and Brody, 9.