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Orcutt basketball coach remembers friendship with Kobe Bryant

Mike Alexander and Kobe Bryant
Orcutt-based basketball coach Mike Alexander, pictured with his wife Peggy, and Kobe Bryant, remembers his friendship with the basketball icon (Courtesy of Mike Alexander)

ORCUTT, Calif. -- As the world mourns the stunning death of Kobe Bryant, Mike Alexander is among the many still coming to terms with the sudden loss.

"At first I didn't believe it," said Alexander. "It was like, it couldn't happen. It just didn't make sense that it could happen."

The longtime Central Coast basketball coach is the President/CEO of Swoosh Basketball, an Orcutt-based club basketball organization.

Swoosh hosts tournaments frequently in Southern California, particularly in the Orange County region, where Bryant lived with his family.

Bryant's club teams were regular participants in tournaments that were run by Alexander.

"I would probably see him about four to five times a year and I would spend weekends with him," said Alexander. "I would have good conversations with him and talk basketball."

Alexander said the basketball icon was especially devoted to his family.

"His kids were definitely the priority in his life," said Alexander "It was all about his kids. It was priority for him. He would do anything for his kids."

He added Bryant was also committed to helping other kids develop on the basketball court.

"I think him Mamba mentality transitioned to his passion to create a great environment for youth, especially girls basketball, but for youth basketball, he really had a passion to want to improve it," said Alexander. "He wanted to help make it a positive environment, so whatever he would do to make that happen, he would do that."

On Sunday, when news broke about the fatal helicopter accident that killed Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, as well as seven other people, Alexander was like so many that couldn't believe what they were hearing.

"It's like losing one of our family members," said Alexander. "Kobe was one of the few guys that really gave everything to everybody that he could give to and to lose him, it's tough, it's really tough and, it's speechless, devastated, doesn't make sense. It's not fair."

Alexander shared a text message on Monday showing a video Bryant recorded more than a year old, expressing his encouragement to Alexander's son, Michael, who is fighting cancer.

In the video, Bryant said he is inspired by Michael's grit, tenacity and commitment.

"You can tell that it came from Kobe's heart and what a warm heart he really had," said Alexander "It really motivated Michael, from what Kobe had to say on the video, Michael went on and amplified the Mamba Mentality that Kobe was talking about and it helped keep Micheal healthy to this point, so I'll never be more grateful to Kobe for doing that for my son."

The message, according to Alexander, shows what type of person Kobe Bryant was.

"He was a good guy," said Alexander. "He was an abnormally good guy, so he was a good guy. He will definitely be missed, but not forgotten."

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Dave Alley

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