Kobe Bryant’s death is setback for women’s basketball, Sierra Canyon coach laments

Kobe Bryant was boosting women's basketball and youth girls' basketball since his retirement from the NBA.
Kobe Bryant was boosting women’s and girls’ basketball since his retirement from the NBA.
(Armando García Parra / L.A. Times en Español)

Sierra Canyon High girls’ basketball coach Alicia Komaki said she spent 12 hours Sunday sitting in her Chatsworth office watching nonstop news coverage about Kobe Bryant’s death. It made her reflect on what his absence might mean to women’s basketball, one of the most important recipients of his support since his retirement from the NBA.

From taking his daughters to WNBA games to coaching his daughter in youth basketball, Bryant was setting the stage to become an invaluable contributor in an arena that needed support. He was headed to Thousand Oaks to coach daughter Gianna, 13, in a youth tournament Sunday when the helicopter he was traveling in crashed, killing him, Gianna and seven others.

Komaki said the word around the club circuit was Bryant might become the girls’ basketball coach at Newport Coast Sage Hill, where Gianna was possibly going to enroll. A Sage Hill representative denied that Bryant was a coaching candidate. Bryant’s eldest daughter, Natalia, attends Sage Hill and is on the volleyball team.

“What he did was incredible, especially for women,” Komaki said. “He was such a giving sports figure. To have such a legendary player coaching in the Southern Section would have been amazing.”

Komaki said she hopes other professional athletes with daughters will follow Bryant’s leadership to support women’s sports.

“Hopefully he laid the foundation,” she said.

Complete coverage of the death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash.