Kobe Bryant’s death was, without a doubt, one of the worst tragedies in sports’ recent history. He was an idol of the masses, a figure that trascended both basketball and the United States. The former Lakers’ star was a truly global figure, and we lost him at 41. Yet the unfortunate events managed to find their way to the New York Mets via past connections.
Other lives were lost in the accident. Several people died, including Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and former baseball coach John Altobelli, a former coach of Mets’ star Jeff McNeil. John’s wife Keri and daughter Alyssa were also among the victims.
Altobelli was Orange Coast College baseball coach. According to the OC Register, Alyssa was a club basketball teammate of Gianna Bryant.
Christina Mauser, an assistant girls basketball coach, Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton also died in the accident.
A frightening story
Tony Altobelli, brother of John, received a text saying that Bryant was dead following a helicopter crash. He proceeded to text Orange Coast College womenâ€™s basketball coach Sammy Doucette, who had been with Bryantâ€™s Mamba Sports Academy before going to OCC.
Altobelli says: â€œShe said it might be true. Then, her next question was, â€˜Have you heard from your brother?â€™ and I was confused. She explained he goes on chopper rides with Kobe.â€
Tony couldn’t contact John. He got in touch with assistant coach Tim Matz, who confirmed the news to him. “He could barely get a word in,” Altobelli said. â€œHe just said, â€˜Theyâ€™re gone.â€™â€
He coached a famous Mets player
John Altobelli happened to coach one of the New York Mets’ best players. Jeff McNeil, who has blossomed into a star in the last two years, was clearly affected by the tragic loss of his former coach.
McNeil played for Altobelli in 2012, when the latter managed the Brewster Whitecaps, a summer ball team in the Cape Cod League. He had a role in shaping McNeil’s future as a big league star and one of the Mets’ best players.
“Tough to hear the news of coach Altobelli. One of my favorite coaches I have ever played for and one of the main reasons I got a chance to play professional baseball. Both the baseball and basketball world lost a great one today,” he said on his official Twitter account, @JeffMcNeil805.
Altobelli was 56. He spent 28 of those years as the Orange Coast College’s coach.