March 7, 2021

Remembering John Altobelli, a ‘collector of lost baseball souls’ (ESPN)

IN LATE MARCH 2019, the Orange Coast College baseball team lost two games in a row. For the powerhouse junior college program, this constituted a mini-crisis. As OCC’s coach, John Altobelli, searched for ways to prevent the skid from worsening, he happened upon the perfect solution. He would ask Kobe Bryant for help.

Over the previous three years, Altobelli had become close with Bryant. Their daughters played basketball together on Bryant’s elite Mamba Sports Academy team. Altobelli lived vicariously through Alyssa the same as Bryant did Gianna. The fathers were quite the pair — Altobelli the legendary junior college coach with nearly 700 career wins and three state championships, Bryant the legendary NBA star who saw in Altobelli what he saw in himself: drive and fire and desire. They were winners. So were their girls.

During the previous season, Altobelli had invited Bryant to speak to his team at OCC. Once the players stopped gawking and grinning, they hung on every word. So on March 27, 2019, Altobelli thought nothing of…

Read “Remembering John Altobelli, a ‘collector of lost baseball souls'” at ESPN