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Pete -- "Remembering a Legend"

Peter J.Cutino
April 3, 1933 – September 19, 2004

Born in Monterey on April 3, 1933 into the Sicilian fishing family of Paul and Rose Cutino, Peter J. Cutino was the second of four children (Rose Marie, Bert, and Jo). Pete grew up in and around Monterey Bay.

"Family" was the most important word in Pete's life, and his devotion to his family is legendary. During and after his years of leadership and achievement on the pool deck, every conversation with Pete invariably included abundant and affectionate references to — and gratitude for — the encouragement and support of Louise, his wife of 51 years, and for the latest news and accomplishments of his children, Paul, Peter Jr., and Anna. In more recent years, Pete took enormous pleasure in the privileged role of “nano,” playful grandfather to Peter John III and Paolo Carlo Cutino, Jenna Mary Rose, Maria Louisa and Sophia Bella Cutino Guglielmi. Yet, the more his family achieved, the greater was Pete's quiet satisfaction and personal humility.

"Monterey" was the most important place in Pete's early years, and he wrote beautifully about his formative years there in Monterey: A View from Garlic Hill. He attended elementary and secondary school there as well as Monterey Peninsula College before graduating from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 1957. He starred on the swim team in Monterey and earned water polo all-conference honors for three seasons at Cal Poly, where he was named Outstanding Athlete in 1957. He continued his education there, earning a master's degree in 1959.

Pete Cutino's distinguished teaching and coaching careers started at Oxnard High School, where he led his swim team to 60 consecutive dual-meet victories, 5 league championships, and 2 California Interscholastic Federation Championships. His water polo teams established an overall record of 80 wins and 16 losses.

In 1963, Pete began working as a supervisor in physical education and coach of swimming and water polo at the University of California, Berkeley. Each of his swim teams from 1963 to 1974 had a winning season, and his water polo teams established an unprecedented record of having won eight NCAA titles as well as having been the runner-up four times, placing third once and fourth twice. In his 26 years as a coach at Cal, Pete was the all-time winning coach in U.S. water polo history. He was also a four-time NCAA and Pac-10 Coach of the Year, directing Golden Bear teams to a record of 519-172. Pete retired in 1989 on the momentum of a 33-game win streak and a second straight NCAA title. He coached 68 All-Americans, six Pac-10 and NCAA Players of the Year, and many Olympians. Pete also coached 13 teams to victory in the U.S. water polo senior national championships and served as the head coach of U.S. National Water Polo team from 1972-76, during which he led the team to the Pan American Games and many other international tournaments, including the World University Games. Every athlete he coached became a member of his extended family.

Pete's stature in water polo is reflected in his having been elected to the Technical Water Polo Committee (TWPC), the international governing body of the sport as well as having served in countless leadership roles in NCAA and U.S.A. water polo. Pete received the AIA Gold Pin Award from the Association Internationale des Arbitres de Water Polo and the Silver Pin Award from FINA. In 1990 he received the U.S. Water Polo Award, the highest honor in the sport. He received the Master Coach Award — the highest honor given to an aquatics coach — and in 1999, the Peter J. Cutino Award was established in his honor by the San Francisco Olympic Club, and is presented annually to the top male and female collegiate water players in the nation. In addition to his memoir, Monterey: A View from Garlic Hill, Pete also wrote three landmark books on coaching water polo.

Pete Cutino was frequently honored as an educator and coach, and was presented with the U.S. Congressional Award by the Honorable Leon E. Panetta. Pete received the Distinguished Alumnus-of-the-Year from Cal Poly, and he was also inducted into 8 Halls of Fame.

Pete returned to the community he loved in 1989 when he served as the director of the Monterey Sports Center. But Pete hardly retired from water polo or from Cal. In addition to giving generously of his time to conducting clinics and coaching Olympic Club teams, Pete fought relentlessly — and unflinchingly — on behalf of building pools suitable for water polo and swimming training and competition. Pete’s e-mails and phone calls about this subject are nearly as legendary (and sometimes were quite unprintable) as what he said at the innumerable meetings held on this subject. At precisely the moment when Pete had grown unimaginably frustrated at the lack of progress in these discussions, he invariably would take out the knife he carried in his pocket and play with it menacingly. Pete also returned to coaching at Cal twice after he retired, most recently as an assistant to Coach Kirk Everist.

Throughout his years on and beyond the pool deck at UC Berkeley, Pete Cutino worked tirelessly on promoting and raising funds for Cal Aquatics — to perpetuate the success he had built there. Along with Rick Cronk, Pete founded the “Splash Club,” which consisted of supporters of the men’s water polo and swimming teams at Cal. More recently, Pete was a driving force, along with Rick Cronk, Peter Schnugg, and many others, in establishing the “Friends of Cal Aquatics,” a broader-based support group which continues to seek philanthropic support in order to insure that Cal’s championship men’s and women’s water polo and swimming teams will have world-class training and competition facilities.

After returning to Monterey, Pete quickly became an ardent and compelling advocate for education and sport as well as an increasing presence in civic leadership and among his childhood friends in the Amici, Paisano, and Campari clubs, as well as in the “Jefferson Street Gang.”

A mountain of a man and a king in his sport, Peter J. Cutino died peacefully at his home overlooking the sea in Monterey ("King of the Mountain") on September 19, 2004.

Peter J. Cutino: He Lived the Way He Coached

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