SPORTS

Coach on Bryant helicopter put “heart and soul” in teaching

Jan 28, 2020, 5:27 AM
kobe...
Wearing a Kobe Bryant No. 8 Lakers jersey, Olivia Tyler, 19, of Simi Valley, Calif., views the memorial at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and pray for the families of the victims of the Sunday helicopter crash that took the lives of the former Lakers star and eight others, Monday morning, Jan. 27, 2020. Tyler said she has idolized Bryant for years and that she previously played at the sports academy but before Bryant bought it. She met him at a UCLA basketball game in 2017 and he gave her a high-five. "Kobe taught me a lot about being the first person in the gym and the last one out," she said. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)
(AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Christina Mauser poured her heart and soul into coaching and teaching physical education at the school where young Gianna and her basketball star father Kobe Bryant were an integral part of the community.

The mother of three worked at the campus in Newport Beach for more than a decade and helped lead its eighth-grade basketball team to its first championship, Harbor Day School said in a statement.

Bouquets were laid at the entrance to the campus Monday, a day after a helicopter carrying Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Mauser and six others to a youth basketball tournament crashed. Everyone aboard perished.

“This loss is indescribable,” the school said in the statement, describing Gianna as someone who never left anyone out, was mature beyond her years and had an unmatched work ethic, “as is the loss of her father who was a respected and active member of the school community.”

Harbor Day is a private school in the idyllic seaside community where Bryant lived. Mauser, of nearby Huntington Beach, taught and coached at the school from 2007 to 2018, the school said.

She and her husband Matt taught and coached basketball at the school, which is how they met Bryant, Matt Mauser told NBC’s “Today” show.

She had a keen mind for defense, he said, and Bryant brought her on to help coach that skill at his Mamba Academy training facility where Gianna’s club team played.

“They called her the mother of defense: MOD,” he said.

“She was just an amazing person: beautiful, smart, funny,” Mauser said. “He didn’t pick her because she was a slouch. He picked her because she was amazing.”

At the school, some students arrived Monday wearing purple and gold, the colors of Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers.

Maria Paun, 81, stopped by to lay flowers at the campus where she said she remembered waiting to pick up her granddaughter more than a decade ago while Bryant waited for his eldest daughter.

“He said, ‘I like your accent, Grandma,’” she recalled through tears. “He was somebody. And I am a nobody. But he bent down to give me a hug.”

The pilot of the helicopter was identified as Ara Zobayan, chief pilot for Island Express Helicopters, which owned the aircraft.

“Ara has been with the company for over 10 years and has over 8,000 flight hours,” the company said in a statement.

Peter and Claudia Lowry, owners of Group 3 Aviation in Los Angeles, said he previously worked there.

In a Facebook post, the couple said Zobayan came to their company in 1998 to learn to fly after taking a sightseeing flight at the Grand Canyon and deciding he wanted to become a pilot.

“Ara worked hard in other businesses to save enough money to pay for training,” they said. “Flying was his life’s passion.”

Also among the victims of Sunday’s crash were Payton Chester, a 13-year-old member of the basketball team, and her mother Sarah, Payton’s grandmother Catherine George told KNBC-4 in Los Angeles.

“We’re just sad, I mean, we’re heartbroken,” Sarah Chester’s brother Andy George told the Orange County Register. “It’s starting to settle in a little bit, but I’m still in disbelief.”

Orange Coast College’s longtime baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa were also on board, said Tony Altobelli, the coach’s brother. Alyssa also played on Gianna’s team.

Altobelli coached at the college for 28 years, won a state championship last season and was named “National Coach of the Year” last year for his division, his brother said.

On Sunday, coaches, friends and former players gathered at the baseball field on the Costa Mesa campus where Altobelli had been known to mow the grass until turf was installed. They swapped memories of Altobelli laying down carpet in the locker room, chiding the umpire during games, dressing as a pirate for Halloween and providing endless support to his students.

“He treated his team like they were sons of his,” said Jason Kehler, the school’s athletic director.

Nate Johnson, associate head coach, looked around the field and said none of it would have been possible without the man known as “Alto.” Flowers were laid at home plate.

“This whole thing — I joke, it’s the house that Alto built, because he built it all,” he said.

Today’s Top Stories

Sports

Utah Falconz team members cheer in celebration...
Mark Jackson

Women’s football team Utah Falconz heads to national championship

Utah's semi-pro tackle women's football team, the Utah Falconz, will head to Texas on June 26 to face off against the Texas Elite Spartans.
12 days ago
boys soccer Utah injuries...
Becky Bruce

High school boys’ soccer put on probation for the high number of ejections

SALT LAKE CITY — The growing number of ejections in high school boys’ soccer prompted the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) to issue a yellow card, of sorts, for the sport. In soccer, a player or coach is ejected when they receive a red card. In such situations, a substitute for the disqualified player […]
14 days ago
FILE - United States gymnasts from left, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nich...
ED WHITE Associated Press

Simone Biles, other women seek $1B-plus from FBI over Nassar

The approximately 90 claimants who said they were sexually assaulted include Biles, Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, all Olympic gold medalists.
19 days ago
Figure skate age Olympics...
Associated Press

Figure skating minimum age rises to 17 before 2026 Olympics

The age limit will be phased in with 16-year-olds allowed to compete in the 2023-24 season. It will then rise to 17 for the season before the Olympics.
20 days ago
utah jazz coach...
TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer

Quin Snyder ends his tenure as Utah Jazz coach after 8 seasons

Snyder released a statement through the team, part of it simply saying "it is time." Snyder went 372-264 with the Jazz.
21 days ago
CORRECTS TO GAME 2 INSTEAD OF GAME 1 - Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole (3) celebrates afte...
TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer

Warriors answer in Game 2, top Celtics 107-88 to even Finals

Stephen Curry scored 29 points, Jordan Poole connected from just inside of midcourt to cap a huge third-quarter run and the Golden State Warriors evened the NBA Finals at a game apiece by beating the Boston Celtics 107-88 on Sunday night.
21 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Coach on Bryant helicopter put “heart and soul” in teaching