Former Southern Humboldt Athlete and Coach Dies in Car Accident

Gene Cotter and SF Girls

98-99 South Fork Girls Basketball team with Coach Cotter in the middle.

Gene Cotter1

A more recent photo of Cotter from the website for his Basketball Jones Skills camp business.

Gene Cotter, founder and owner of Basketball Jones Hoop Camps, former South Fork High School student (class of 1990) and well-known basketball coach died in a car accident a little before 9 p.m. last night.

Cotter was well known and beloved in the Southern Humboldt community. “It’s almost impossible to be a Southern Humboldt athlete without some Cotter influence,” wrote Ren Hollis, a South Fork graduate.

Cotter, age 44, according to an article in a newspaper from Hollister, the town he lived in, was entering onto Hwy 156 when the van he was driving was struck by a Chevy Silvarado.

A CHP spokesperson was not immediately available to talk about the incident but a San Benito Sheriff’s report mentions that more than one person was injured in the accident. An officer at the scene reports, “Upon providing medical attention to the victims, I was notified that one of the drivers in the accident was deceased.”

According to his basketball camp website, Cotter was

• Named to All-State team in High School
• Played at Holy Names University on a Basketball Scholarship
• AAU Coach
• High School Varsity Coach
• College Assistant Coach
• Personal Basketball Trainer
• Director of over 200 basketball camps
• Certified High School Official
• Starred in seven DVD Basketball videos

Former South Fork High School basketball player Tara Puzin calls Cotter, “one of the most influential sports coaches I ever had… .” Puzin wrote, “He was my varsity basketball coach junior year of high school and even though I haven’t seen him for years, I will never forget the adventures we had that season and the difference he made in my life.”

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56 comments

  • Awww crap. I remember Gene. RIP Gene…

  • When we were kids Gene, Steve Scruggs, maybe Brad Spencer and Graeson would routinely show up at daybreak at our house on Orchard for an ongoing badminton tournament. It was so competitive and so loud that any hope my Mom and Sister might have had for sleeping in quickly vanished. This went on all summer as did dual full court basketball games at the school with people sitting out because teams were full, cliff jumping at Raven cliff, hitchhiking to the Cove, etc., etc. Redway was an awesome place to be young in the 80’s largely because of Gene and the other kids who grew up there. Something was always happening. Gene was a great athlete and a friend. He was stoked on life, hoops, waves, whatever. I am really sad to hear of his death and I wish his brothers and family comfort in their time of sorrow. Much love Geno. I miss you already man.

  • Aw man. That’s terrible news. Gene was a great person, always laughing and making people around him laugh too.

  • So sad my prayers go out your famley rip

  • I played with Gene at college of the redwoods. What a tremendous human being he was. Lots of laughs and pick up games I even remember his catch phrase “freaky deaky”.

    • Keith, mannn hit me upI been looking for you for years!! Me and David even went by your old house a few years ago and left a our contact info. Man, you already know how close me and Mean Gene were, Im still in shock!! Im on facebook under Kevin L. Fletcher.

  • so much heart for the game!

    • Yep he really was The Basketball Jones.. A true legend of the county.. One of my favorite dudes. Excepted everyone, all walks of life. I learned so much from his example. He was a ray of light in every room or gym he entered.. Love you Gene.. This is a sad day for so many

  • Gonna miss you bud!

  • This is such tragic news. Geno was a huge influence on my son Cooper and brought out the best in him as an athlete. I believe he did that for all his athletes and campers. Gene will be sorely missed by our family and our community. Our prayers go out to his young family.

  • Tooo soon Geno!!
    Napa Basketball kids are so fortunate to have had u to inspire them and play with spirit and soul and believe in hard work!!
    You gave so much to Teal Geyer and our family!!!
    RIP
    Your Legacy will live ON

  • Oh no,I’m so very sorry to the family my prayers to you all.so very sad.i just cry when we lose a good one,and he was.RIP GENE!

  • My condolences to the family!

    Who says nothing good ever came out of Southern Humboldt? What an exceptional guy.

  • Dyerville Loop is Not Alderpoint

    Oh man im so sorry, life can be so short. do something you love and help others along, great man , huge loss.So sorry.

  • So sad to hear this. Gene was not only a talented athlete but a fine person. I knew him when he was a student at South Fork and later ran into him when I worked at CR and he was a student there. Not just a cheerful person to be around but even as a boy he showed a real interest in others that is rare at such a young age and I’m sure served him well in his career.

  • An awesome man. I will miss him a lot.

  • What sad news! I had Gene in Restaurant Foods and he always made me laugh. I was so excited about all of his projects in class that he made teaching fun. After a fun day in the classroom, I would go watch him play basketball in the high school gym and marvel at what an athlete he was!! He sure loved that game. I know that he inspired others in his life and was an inspiration for many.

    I wish comfort for his family.

  • Geno is made a big mark I’m a bigger world.if you got paid by all the people you touched in this world geno would be the richiest man alive

    • Geno’s way was infectious. On the court, at a concert or in the ocean. He lit many other laterns because his latern shined so bright.

  • Condolence to all affected buy this tragedy

  • I knew Gene when I was a kid and he lived down the street from my family in Redway. He always was THE NICEST guy and came over to play Super Mario bros. with my sister and I. The sound of his basketball hitting the pavement everyday as he walked home is a memory I will cherish. I had no idea he went on to coach. I am heartbroken for his family. You will be in my thoughts. 💗💗💗💗

  • I loved Gene just like everyone. He was so full of life and personality.

  • Exceptional guy is an understatement….my kids are my life and he made my kids better. The entire tri-county area will miss you as will I.

  • The b-ball playoff games at South Fork in 1990 were insane! Tickets sold out days ahead, gym packed to the ceiling. Games went down to the last second, some of the most exciting games I’ve ever seen, pro, college or high school. Geno held on to a b-ball like it was a Yo-yo. Fitting time to rename the remodeled South Fork gym in his honor. One of a kind.

  • Yep he really was The Basketball Jones.. A true legend of the county.. One of my favorite dudes. Excepted everyone, all walks of life. An example to us all a ray of light in every gym or room he entered.

  • Love you Geno! You were one of the greatest assistants i ever had and always brought out the best in people, laughing, encouraging, empowering and having fun. Thanks for all the great memories. Your energy will carry on forever!

  • Terrible, sad news. Condolences to the Cotter family.

  • I remember playing basketball with Gene when I was in 7th grade. He would do some elbow dribbling and give all of us kids a show! He was such a nice man! I’m very sorry we lost such a great person.

  • What tragic news. My condolences to everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.

  • Brett Van Meter

    I went through every grade with Gene. Kindergarden all the way through. This is really bad. There are so many good things to say about Gene. Such a great guy. Rarely does someone fall in love with something and be so passionate about it, but basketball was his thing. He scored 30 points or more in every game Redway gym in the 6th grade. Super competitive but also a really good teammate. Such a great friend. He should always be remembered as a South Fork legend. As far as I know he was the only South Fork player to ever be recognizeed as a ALL State player ever! He played 1st base on the legendary Jim Mayhew teams. He probably shot more baskets at the Redway playground than anybody ever. He climbed to the highest points on the cliffs as Raven Cliff. He also was a star wide receiver on those great football teams in Matt Stickels back yard.

    • Good stuff Brett. Gene goes down as a Redway legend along with your Dad.

      • Loren you were one of the Best natural athletes to ever live in Redway . It’s great to hear you say the nice things you said about Cotter.

        • Isaac it’s really good to hear from you. Thanks for the compliment. I hope you are well man. I feel blessed to have grown up with Gene, you and all the boys. We had a helluva run. Gene may have been the best of all of us. Keep on keeping on bro.

    • Theresa campbell

      Such a sad day! What a tragic loss…he will be so missed..

    • Bret you couldn’t of said it any better I think he’s the only person that ever climbed out on the branch on the top Ravencliff and jumped from the tree branch that sucks good people died way too young I don’t know one person that knows Gene don’t like him.I wish we could all get together again and play butts up in the nuns driveway or football and Stickles yard or go down to Ravencliff Redway beach just one more time but those days are over. It’s nice to see so many people were touched by Gene.

    • Brett, what a reply, as tears roll down my face while I read your words I can just visualize those shots in the Redway gym, Ravencliff and all the other memories you shared. He was, like you said a legend, he was also, very well known in our neck of the woods, Ferndale. Personality, basketball, did so much for kids and touched so many people!! Terribly missed..

  • I went to school with Geno breifly at college of the redwoods. I only knew him a short time, but I loved that dude. Always had a smile, was fun, happy, outgoing. LOVED hoops and was damn good at it. I haven’t seen him in 20+ years, but this news really made me sad. My heart goes out to his friends and family. He will be missed. God-speed Geno.

  • I am so sorry to hear this news.. I went to school with him.. same grade.. he was always full of energy..my thoughts and prayers are with his family <3 R.I.P Gene..

  • Sandy Cook Sowa

    Geno married my niece Tiffany, an equal in positivity and humor. They have 2 happy and athletic kids. Please won’t all of you take a moment to mentor, write or just play a pickup game with those sweet kids who will really miss their dad.

    • What a great picture showing how Gene impacted others. Thank you. My heart goes out to Emma, who was so proud of Gene, as well as his brothers, wife, children, and all other relations and friends. Matt Futrell posted here about renaming South Fork’s gym after Gene Cotter. I agree it would be a fitting honor to memorialize such a fine man.

  • Always my brother! Geno coached me at FRC and brought out my best like he did for so many others! I’ll never forget the Damn van in Van damme state park! You were a hoop legend and I will miss you and your infectious spirit! Love you geno!! RIP

  • Geno was one of the toughest ball players I had to play against in college. Solid in every way. A totally unselfish player and individual. He brought the level of every one’s game up whenever he showed up to play in Sohum. He was fun as ever to be with when searching for waves in the ocean too. Such a good guy.

    Off-court he was a gentleman and full of life and humor. Always positive and always present. My love goes out to his family and friends who were lucky enough to be close with him.

    Thanks for all of your good vibes and energy Geno! We will all miss you.

  • Darlene Pieracci

    Just want to mention that not only was Gene all of the above, but two years ago we recruited him on a new venture in the Hollister Little League as a AA manager. We were in a pinch and I called him up to say hey, would you be interested in managing a team? We were in the middle of a draft and needed another manager. Without hesitation, he said sure, I’ll be right down. Not too many people would do that, no questions asked. He came in to the room…as only Gene could. High-fiving everybody and going straight to work. He was so good at what he did, he came around the second season and stepped right up to be a manager again. He not only influenced the basketball world but left meaningful relationships within the baseball community. A mentor and a scholar. It’s an honor to have known Gene. We truly lost one of the most memorable men that I’ve known in the town of Hollister. Until we meet again…RIP. 🙏

  • Knew Gene and his family since I was a teenager….

    I am reading this from Orange County after some folks from where I grew up called me about this sad event. He loved basketball period! He was full of positive energy and will be missed by all that knew him.

    Write your state rep and send him news of this story. I am familiar with both those roads and lived in Monterey for a short period. They are not to the standard they should be in 2016 or any time.

    May God bring peace and comfort to Gene’s family. You are in our prayers!

    Byron August

  • Will miss Geeno’s wonderful smile. His energy will surely be missed in this world.

  • Really sad news. I played sports against Gene from elementary school all the way through high school. He was a fantastic individual. I will always remember his smile and grin, which I absolutely loved! He was a remarkable individual and even coached my son just a few years ago in Gilroy during one of his camps. You will be missed my friend and my prayers go out to your family. You were taken from this Earth too soon, but the life you lived made an impact on everyone you encountered. Not very many people ever accomplish something like that in this world….

  • What a sad sad day. I just want to send my condolences to Emma, Willie, Eddie his wife and his kids I know it’s got to be hard on you guys.
    I’ve known Gene my whole life
    It’s nice to see so many of his friends say so many nice things about him and feel the same way I do and miss a lot of the same things I miss wiffleball in mayhews yard .
    Football at Stickles yard with Vanmeter and Ricky Todd& Randy Wiley playing basketball redway elementary .Ravencliff

    It’s hard to grow up in Humboldt and not have people that don’t like you but Gene was one of those rare guys that there wasn’t one person that knew him or played with him that didn’t like him.

    Definitely a legend in Humboldt County on the courts and in the hearts of all his dear friends and family I’m going to miss you buddy hope to see you again on the playground in the sky

    • Amen!

      He will be there beating someone in a H.o.r.s.e game. Saving a jumper from behind the basket for the letter E

  • Gene was one of the best coaches I ever had. Why did he have to die. Why. He taught me so much and was friends with my dad. He had a family. Now who will be Mr. Awesome for basketball jones. I cried all day when I heard about my former coach die from a stupid chevy silverado#Carmelbballjones

  • My condolences to His family. So sorry for your loss. God Bless and keep Him. From “The Sellers” Family..Korey, Sonnie, and Harmony.

  • I was Gene’s fifth grade teacher at Redway Elementary. I taught hundereds of kids over my career of 30 years at Redway and in Oregon. Gene was one student I will never forget. He had so much energy and spirit!! A funny experience occurred when I coached flag football. I remember the time during a game at Redway when Gene dove head first into the end zone scoring a touchdown. The ref called it back as he reminded me that kids were not allowed to leave their feet running the ball. It was too dangerous!! This coupled with the fact that we were playing on the baseball infield and the end zone was of course dirt not grass. Gene was heartbroken of course and it took me ten minutes to calm him down. Yes he was a true competitor and as I’ve heard he grew up to be an example of why I taught for all those years.
    ” Mr Peck”

  • Camille Smith-Ballon

    RIP Coach Cotter and prayers for your wife and beautiful children. Thank you for bringing the love of basketball to so many children in our Santa Cruz community including my sons.
    In particular, your generous spirit made it possible for every willing child to get to play. Coaches do not often know how much of an impact they have on each child, but I think you truly knew how much you could teach beyond the game.
    They will never forget your energy and all the fun at Basketball Jones🙏

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