Community Board: Basketball Jones founder left impact on thousands

A photo of Cotter is displayed at the front of the stage during a memorial Saturday in the San Benito High School gym.

How many people can say they positively affected thousands of children in their lives? Gene Cotter was among the very few in that prestigious club.
Simply put, San Benito County lost one of the good ones when Cotter, founder of the popular Basketball Jones Hoop Camps, died in a vehicle wreck on Highway 156. Cotter, 44, passed away far too soon in an accident involving his car and a pickup truck on the rural stretch of highway between San Juan Bautista and Hollister, his adopted hometown.
As explained in Emanuel Lee’s eloquent piece about the local sports icon, Cotter is survived by his wife, Tiffany, and their two children, Bailey, 10, and Brody, 9. On July 16, hundreds of people gathered at Mattson Gym to celebrate his life.
Publicly, Cotter is most known for his camps. Over the years, youths participated throughout the region in places like Hollister, Humboldt, San Jose, Napa, Gilroy, Carmel, Aptos, Salinas and Santa Cruz. Cotter, like many local residents, was a transplant and moved here 12 years ago with his family.
According to Lee’s story, Cotter attended high school at South Fork before moving on to College of the Redwoods and then Holy Names University in Oakland. In addition to his basketball talents, Cotter was passionate about running and surfing. As a teen, he qualified for the CIF State Cross-Country Championships from 1987 to 1989, finishing 13th in the Division III race.
It was as coach and mentor where he made his biggest mark, though.
“Geno has also left a remarkable legacy here in Hollister, especially for the youth,” said David Kaplansky, a local basketball legend in his own right, in the Free Lance story. “I’ve watched him inspire young children and make basketball more popular in this town. He was a bottle of energy and a true one-of-a-kind. His love for the game was unprecedented.”
With Cotter’s death, an entire town, and region, will greatly miss that energy and impact on local children.
The Community Insight Board is an independent, volunteer panel that contributes opinion pieces to the Free Lance. Members include Jae Eade, Cesar Flores, Frankie Gallagher, Gordon Machado and Brenda Weatherly. Editor Kollin Kosmicki moderates the discussions and writes the board’s columns.

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