22 September 2004
Pete Cutino, a Cal coaching legend and one of the greatest figures in United States water-polo history, died of apparent heart failure at his Monterey home on Sunday, Sept. 19. He was 71.
Cutino, a four-time NCAA and Pac-10 Coach of the Year, directed Golden Bear teams to eight national championships and a 519-172-10 career record during his 26-year tenure as head coach in Berkeley. In 1988, his last team won a school-record 33 games en route to a second straight NCAA title.
Said outgoing Athletic Director Steve Gladstone: “Pete Cutino epitomized what a champion truly is. More than all the trophies and awards he’s won, his greatest contribution was the profound impact he had on the lives of countless Cal student athletes during nearly three decades of service. Our university — and the national water-polo community — has lost a true legend.”
Famous for his fiery coaching demeanor, Cutino was a sight to behold at Cal water-polo matches. While at the helm at Cal, Cutino coached 68 All-Americans, six Pac-10 and NCAA Players of the Year, and five Olympians, including current Golden Bear head water-polo coach Kirk Everist.
In addition to his coaching duties at California from 1963 to 1988, Cutino served as head coach of the U.S. National Team (1972-76), the U.S.A. Olympic Team (1976), and the U.S. team at the World University Games in Yugoslavia (1987).
Before retiring as head coach in 1989 after building California into the most successful college program in the nation, Cutino led the Bears to NCAA crowns in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1983, 1984, 1987, and 1988. Four other times in his career, he guided Cal to runner-up finishes in the NCAA Tournament.
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 conjunction with the San Francisco Olympic Club in his honor; it is presented annually to the top male and female collegiate water-polo players in the nation.
While known primarily as one of the nation’s finest coaches, Cutino also was a longtime faculty member with Cal’s department of physical education.
“This is a great loss for Cal,” said Bob Milano, the Bears’ head baseball coach from 1978 to 1999. “This is an emotional time for me. He was more than a friend — he was like an adviser and confidant.”
Cutino graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1957 and earned a master’s degree in education from his alma mater in 1959. While at Cal Poly, he was a three-time water polo all-conference selection. Prior to assuming the coaching reins of both the Cal men’s water-polo and swimming programs in 1963 — he served as Cal’s swimming coach from 1963 to 1974 —Cutino was head water-polo and swimming coach at Oxnard High School. His swim teams at Oxnard compiled a 64-8 record and claimed five county championships in the early ’60s, while his water-polo team there went 80-12 during that same period.
He is survived by his wife, Louise, and their three grown children, Paul, Peter Jr., and Anna. Funeral services are pending.