Kobe Bryant's high school coach reflects on the basketball legend's life

John McDevitt
January 28, 2020 - 8:13 pm
Lower Merion head basketball coach Gregg Downer.

John McDevitt/KYW Newsradio

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ARDMORE, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Kobe Bryant's former high school coach reflects on the basketball legend's life.

"A lot of little kids lost their hero, and a grown man called coach Downer lost his also," said Lower Merion High School head basketball coach Gregg Downer, who was Bryant's high school coach from 1992 to 1996.

He says he didn't realize that Bryant was his hero until after the NBA legend died.

"My heart hurt so bad that my insides hurt so bad that I realized that I had lost my hero. I was so proud to have coached him. So proud every time I saw him and never saw a human being seek excellence like him," he said. 

Downer was wearing Bryant's #33 Lower Merion warmup jacket when talking to the press, which he says was kept in a storage closet for 24 years at the school until now.

He talked about the first time he met Bryant. 

"I heard a lot of buzz about a 14-year-old in our middle school," he said. 

He invited the 6-foot-2-inch, 140-pound teen to a practice with the varsity team. 

"Five minutes into that first varsity practice, I turned to my multiple assistant coaches and I said this kid is a pro. I knew right away I was in for a ride of a lifetime as a coach," he said.

Downer says the jacket gives him power to get through this difficult time, and he hopes it will one day hang in the basketball hall of fame.