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Basketball camp guru killed in crash on 156

Gene Cotter, 44, died Monday night after a crash on Highway 156 between Hollister and San Juan Bautista
Cotter, left, with his friend, Jeremy Dirks. Provided photo.

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.


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Adam Breen (Adam Breen)

Adam Breen has been a San Benito County resident since 1980 and graduated from Sacred Heart School and San Benito High School before earning a bachelor's degree from California State University, Fresno. A father of two sons, Adam has taught newspaper, English and yearbook at SBHS for the past decade, after six years as a magazine editor for Santa Clara University. He previously was editor of the Hollister Free Lance and content director for BenitoLink.


I  did not know the gentleman, but obviously a loss to the entire community in addition to his family and friends.

Another tragic death on San Benito County's terrible highways and although the root cause is not yet known, Highways 156 and 25 are both ill-designed and totally inadequate for the traffic they handle today. They violate almost every rule of good highway engineering and they are overcrowded and have uncontrolled entrances..

California spends MORE and gets LESS for its roads than almost any state in the nation due, primarily, to the state's outrageous costs for overhead, prevailing wages, and crazy environmental rules all of which run the overall costs and timetables into the stratosphere.

The environmentalist's policy: save the frogs and let the humans perish or stack them in shipping containers. No matter the ultimate determination of this tragedy, everyone knows that 156 and 25 are deadly at the best of times. 156 is a crowded two-lane, truck-loaded highway with inadequate entry and exit and no center barrier, it is unacceptable when you consider the taxes we pay yet Caltrans has delayed the improvement yet AGAIN.

Highway 156 is now a major truck route and Highway 25 a major commuting route and both are, essentially, improved farm roads - nothing more (156 E of SJB).  They move as fast at the slowest vehicle, they have too many grade-level crossings with short of no entrance/exit lanes.

This is simply nuts and California is a disgrace when it comes to roads outside of the biggest metro areas.  Billions wasted on the bullet train so the politicians can go home fast from Sacramento to LA; meanwhile many millions of Joe and Jane Taxpayer Commuters are just screwed.

Marty Richman

Submitted by (Debi Mahler) on

Yes, Marty, you are so right about our inadequate highways. So the solution? Let's build MORE HOMES and bring in MORE RESIDENTS with MORE CARS!!!!!

Ms. Mahler, you do live somewhere do you not?  So, you've got yours and you believe that your first obligation is to kick the door closed and make sure no one else finds a place to live; how "San Benito" of you.  Why don't you leave, you have no more right to be here than anyone else.  Perhaps you should check the local government budgets and see what it costs a community to merely exist in the State of California and especially to support the long-time residents who pay the least in taxes and the least for services.

Highway 156 truck traffic is NOT Hollister traffic or homes traffic, it's Highway 101 - Highway 5 - Central Valley Traffic.  It moves the goods that pays the bills and employs the people who pay the bills that keep the nation and state running and, perhaps, helps pay your mortgage if you are employed.

Highway 25 traffic is commuter traffic and the commuters work in the state's biggest economic engine - Silicon Valley.  Believe it or not that engine helps pay everyone's bills.  The commuting workers in San Benito County bring home just under $1 BILLION a year in earnings, shall we send them out to pick crops and live in the sewers under the city like in the classic "Metropolis"?

Ah, yes, the good old days when the migrant workers came only when needed, lived in hovels in labor camps and worked for pennies and asked for no services (sarcasm alert).  Those days are not coming back and the state DEMANDS that we take our fair share of growth and population and they have the financial hammer to get their way. 

The Feds are also demanding everyone take a fair share of 'affordable' housing. Now, do you really want the state and Federal government making the decisions on how and where we grow?  In case you do not know that threat has already been made with HUD claiming much zoning is discriminatory,.

My point was that we have already paid the taxes that should have provided adequate roads, but we are not getting our money's worth; I'll be happy to debate housing impacts anytime you like.

Marty Richman



Submitted by (Mr. ....) on

I can't keep my mouth shut when I read such things.
Gene leaves behind 2 kids and his wife an you've got nothing better to do than arguing about this highway? Congratulations!
By the way...I met Gene almost 20 years a go when he visited his family in Germany for a view weeks.

Submitted by (J) on

my kids went to the Basketball Jones Camps every year! They loved the camps because Geno was so fun, so good to them, cared so much, and was so kind. This is very sad! He will be missed!

I posted the above before I saw the story of Del Webb pulling out, the Del Webb story had no influence on my comments on the cost of environmental excess.

Marty Richman

Submitted by John Noble on

H156 is the new H25...

Submitted by (Conor Michael) on

I had been going to his basketball camps for five years and it was always the highlight of my summer. He would always push kids to their limits and beyond that and loved when a kid would be leaving everything they had on the court. He was one of my role models when it came to working hard and playing hard. RIP Geno

Submitted by (rebecca pearson) on

Geno was an absolute GEM of a person, and this is a tragic loss to our community. He was a friend to EVERYONE he met, his smile was contaigous, his positive energy boundless, his spirit generous and kind. Please keep his precious family in your thoughts and prayers. Political comments have no place here.

Submitted by (John) on

The World is less of a good place without Gene Cotter. He taught Basketball the right way, and his enthusiasm, oh his enthusiasm! I played with and against him at open gym at North Monterey County and cherish my memories of him. I, and my entire family will miss him more than words can express.

Submitted by (sadierabusin) on

Coach Gene will be dearly missed by our community. My condolences to his family, I was always impressed for his passion of sports and giving back to our community. I'm just shocked to even write this, but I know basketball will never be the same in Hollister without him. I am very sad to even finish my sentence. You will be missed..

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