COLORADO SPRINGS, September 21. USA Water Polo yesterday announced the loss of one of its most revered figures. Former Cal Berkeley and USA Water Polo coach Pete Cutino died at his home in Monterrey (Calif.) on Sunday afternoon, September 19, of apparent heart failure at the age of 71.
“In my time as president, Pete has been one of my greatest mentors,” said USA Water Polo president Richard Foster. “I would always call him for advice. He was one of the most politically astute figures water polo has ever seen. He was a giant of a man with enormous talent as a coach. He will be missed.”
Cutino’s career in water polo was broad, with the biggest feathers in his cap coming as a coach both at the collegiate and international level. Cutino served as head coach for the U.S. National Team from 1972-1976 and the World University Games team in Yugoslavia in 1987.
In his 26 years as a coach at Cal Berkeley, Cutino was a four-time NCAA and Pac-10 Coach of the Year, directing Golden Bear teams to eight national championships and a record of 519-172-10. Cutino bowed out of the collegiate ranks in 1988 on the momentum of a 33-game win streak and a second straight NCAA title.
In 1999, the Peter J. Cutino award was established in conjunction with the Olympic Club of San Francisco, in his honor, and is presented annually to the top male and female collegiate water polo players in the nation. The award is the water polo equivalent to football’s Heisman Trophy.
“Pete is one of the greatest coaches in American history,” said Tony Azevedo, the only three-time recipient of the Cutino Award. “He was a role model and an idol for all the success that he’s had. I remember growing up thinking ‘I hope I get to play for him someday.’ Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity, but I did get the chance to talk with him and listen to him on several occasions. He was a great man and it’s pretty devastating that he’s not here anymore.”
A total of 68 All-Americans, six Pac-10 and NCAA Players of the Year and five Olympians played for Cutino including Kirk Everist, a 1992 and 1996 Olympian and current head water polo coach at Cal.
“For me, it’s as close to losing your father as you can get,” said Everist. “He’s somebody who’s obviously made a big impression on my life. I ended up, hopefully, following in his footsteps. It’s tough.”
For all of his accomplishments, Cutino was also a joy to watch. His fiery demeanor on the pool deck at times made the bench as much of a draw as the game in the pool.
“Unless you were the other team in the pool, he was extremely compassionate,” Foster quipped with a stifled smile.
Pete is survived by his wife, Louise, and their three grown children, Paul, Peter Jr. and Anna.
Memorial services will be held Friday (September 24) at 1:00 at the Monterey Peninsula College Ampitheatre.