ARDMORE, Pa. (CBS) — Kobe Bryant’s former high school coach is remembering the NBA legend and talking about the moment he learned that his friend had died. Lower Merion High School basketball coach Gregg Downer coached Bryant from 1992-1996 and remained close with him and his family.
“I truly believe a lot of kids lost their hero and a grown man named Coach Downer lost his also,” he said.
Downer said a reporter first contacted him Sunday afternoon about LeBron James surpassed Bryant as the NBA’s third-highest scorer during the Los Angeles Lakers-Philadelphia 76ers game on Saturday night.
“He taught us how to win, not to take short-cuts…. how to win championships…..” “I don’t think the momentum would have been there for all of this… ….if not for a man named Kobe Bryant.” – Coach Gregg Downer @CBSPhilly pic.twitter.com/pWB9Up4WzL
— Joe Holden (@JoeHoldenCBS3) January 28, 2020
Downer declined the call and then the rest of the day was a blur. He then received sudden and terrible news.
“We were hoping and praying this was all a bad joke or dream,” Downer said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “As reality set in, I broke down in the middle of my kitchen.”
Downer says since Sunday, the days have been overwhelmed with grief.
His own personal successes are closely tied with Bryant, whom he coached at the high school between 1992 and 1996, the year they captured the state championship.
“He pushed me as a coach, I pushed him right back,” Downer said. “It was a beautiful winning combination for which I will forever be grateful.”
Doug Young was a member of the team and he recalled an interesting dynamic as an underclassman came aboard.
“I was a senior when he was a sophomore and it was his team from the time he arrived,” Young said.
Bryant died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, along with his daughter Gianna and seven other people.