By Ray Hamill — Six years on from his tragic passing, the legacy of Gene Cotter lives on.
Fondly known as Geno, the Southern Humboldt native and local basketball legend died in a car accident six years ago this week, but his Basketball Jones Hoop Camps are as strong as ever and re-establishing themselves here on the North Coast this summer.
“Our mantra is ‘stoke the love for the game,’ that’s what Basketball Jones does,” said Basketball Jones Operations Director Ace Koski. “We have passionate coaches that are energizing. That’s our real agenda. We really try to put the love in like Geno did.”
This year, Basketball Jones is holding 14 summer camps in California, including three here in Humboldt County.
They recently held a camp in Fortuna, with 70 kids signing up, and they will host one in two weeks at Arcata High, as well as one next month in Redway.
And the camps are high energy and hosted in the spirit of how Cotter played the game and the passion he brought to the court.
“What’s uniquely different about Basketball Jones Hoop Camps compared to others, it’s definitely still the high level of energy we bring to all the teachable moments experienced at our camps, but it’s also how we coach the distinct brand of basketball that’s unique to Geno — with passion, purpose and positivity,” Koski said.
The camps stress fundamentals, selflessness and the team concept.
Koski first met Cotter back in 1996, while still at Willits High School, and says he had an immediate impact on his life.
“I didn’t have any direction in my life when I met Geno,” Koski said. “He was the real deal and he just blew my mind and I was sold.
“He started me in ’96 and I’ve been a part of it ever since.”
Koski also works with the Live Like Geno Foundation, whose mission is “to inspire Passion, Purpose and Positivity in honor of Geno by creating positive impact in the lives of economically challenged youth through development programs that personify his love of basketball, his commitment to community enrichment, and his authentic approach to living life in the service of others.”
The foundation has worked with school districts and local officials to install outdoor courts in Redway and Hollister, where Cotter lived before his untimely passing, as well as providing college scholarships and hosting camps in underserved areas.
And his name is living on in more ways than that.
Geno’s children — 16-year-old Bailey and 15-year-old Brody — both are following in the family tradition and have been coaching at some of the camps.
The Arcata camp will run from July 25-29 and is open to boys and girls aged 6-15.
The recent camp was the first in Fortuna in 20 years and followed a winter camp Basketball Jones hosted at the Bear River Casino Resort, which also featured 70 kids.
“It was so successful for our first year back,” Koski said.
Former Fortuna Husky Gordie Hunt also has played a big role in Basketball Jones’ development over the years and has been working the camps since 1997.
Hunt is the association Northern Regional Director and is responsible for organizing the camps in Humboldt.
According to Koski, Hunt has put together a staff of All-Americans to work the camps, including College of the Redwoods men’s coach Ryan Bisio, who will be a guest speaker at the upcoming Arcata camp.
For more information on the camps, visit the Basketball Jones website.