‘He likes being around me’: Friend recalls Cape Cod coach’s bond with Kobe Bryant

BREWSTER, MASS. (WHDH) - Former Cape Cod baseball coach John Altobelli formed a bond with Kobe Bryant over their daughters’ basketball abilities, and was a friend to rivals on the baseball diamond as well, a fellow Cape Cod coach said.

Altobelli, his wife Keri and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa were on a helicopter with Bryant, his daughter Gianna and four other people when it crashed in California Sunday, killing all aboard. Altobelli was coaching for Orange Coast College at the time but had spent four summers on Cape Cod coaching the Brewster Whitecaps and many more years with a junior college team.

Fellow league coach Scott Pickler said Altobelli was a friendly presence on the field.

“After 20 years you became friends. You knew their families,” Pickler said. “There wasn’t a game that I went to in the 24 years that we coached against each other where when you walk across the field, you walk to his dugout you shake hands, [the] first thing out of our mouths was talking about our families. That’s the type of guy he was.”

And Pickler said that same friendly nature led Altobelli to bond with Bryant.

“He said ‘my daughter has gotten into basketball and she’s a pretty good player, and Kobe’s daughter is a pretty good player and they’ve become friends.’ And then he said ‘Kobe and I made a connection,'” Pickler recalled. “There were days when Kobe couldn’t be there that John would take over the practices if he didn’t have a practice.”

Pickler said Bryant would speak to Altobelli’s players before state championships and often invited Altobelli to ride in his private helicopter.

“He wanted to tell me what kind of person Kobe was — ‘He’s down to Earth. He’s a real guy. He likes being around me,’” Pickler said.

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