Cal Remembers Cutino's Legacy

Sept. 27, 2004

By Gina Merlone Daily Californian

Berkeley, CA (U-WIRE) -- Most people don't get awards named for them until after they die. Pete Cutino, however, was not most people.

The venerated Cal men's water polo coach passed away Sept. 19, but the Peter J. Cutino award-the water polo equivalent of the Heisman trophy-was established in his honor five years ago.

Such is the legend of Pete Cutino, whose memorial service was held Friday in Monterey.

The Bears' water polo match against Pacific-scheduled for the same day as the service-was postponed so the team could attend. Current players paid their respects alongside former ones who flew in from all over the country-one from as far as North Carolina.

Cutino's tenure at Cal began in 1963, coaching the men's swim team for 12 years (1963-74) and the water polo team for 26 (1963-88).


Well known for his intimidating stature, loud voice and intense personality, Cutino often treated water polo spectators to two shows-the one in the pool, as his Bears consistently thrashed their competition, and the one on deck, as he made his opinion clear about every play and call.

"He was a strong figure," said Ben Maser, who played for Cutino at Cal from 1983 to '87. "He had this way of motivating you-he was a guy who could be angry with you and you would love him at the same time."

Cutino's distinct coaching style apparently worked, as his teams were national champions eight times (1973, '74, '75, '77, '83, '84, '87, '88) and runners-up another four (1969, '78, '80, '86).

Cutino won his fair share of coaching awards as well. He was a four-time NCAA and Pac-10 Coach of the Year, head coach of the U.S. national (1972-76), World University (1987) and Olympic (1976) teams and received the College Swim Coaches' Association's Master Coach Award, considered the most distinguished accolade in aquatics.

"Pete created this program and he's had a huge influence on the sport," said current Bears water polo coach Kirk Everist.

Everist would know-Cutino was his coach when he played for Cal from 1986-88.

An NCAA All-American three years in a row, 1988 Pac-10 and NCAA Player of the Year and member of two national title-winning teams, Everist said he owes a lot to Cutino.

"Pete was about as close to a father as I can lose. He is the reason why I'm coaching at Cal," Everist said.

Everist was only one among many in Cutino's stable of stars. Cutino coached five men who ended up on Olympic teams, six NCAA and Pac-10 Players of the Year-one of them his son, Peter Cutino, Jr.-and 68 All-Americans.

But it wasn't just the stars who Cutino touched.

"The thing I remember most about him was that he was a very inclusive guy," said Maser. "I mean, I was no Kirk Everist, but he still made me feel a part of the team. Everyone was important.

"To this day, I miss playing, and I think that's because I miss being coached by him."

(C) 2004 Daily Californian via U-WIRE

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Former Cal coach Pete Cutino