“It’s horrible,” Matt Mauser said, holding back tears while talking about the death of his wife, Christina Mauser.
“I got three small kids and am trying to figure out how to navigate life with three kids and no mom,” he said during an interview Monday on the “TODAY” show.
Christina Mauser, 38, was one of seven people, in addition to Bryant, 41, and his daughter, 13, who died Sunday morning in the Calabasas crash. She was the assistant coach for Gianna Bryant’s Mamba Academy basketball team, a job for which Mauser said Bryant personally selected her.
“He picked her because she was amazing,” Mauser said. “I was so proud of her and she was so happy.”
Matt and Christina Mauser, whose three kids are ages 11, 9 and 3, were both teachers working at a small private school that Bryant’s daughters attended. Mauser said he was the basketball coach and his wife was the assistant coach when Bryant noticed “what an amazing mind” Christina Mauser had for the game and invited her to join his coaching team.
“He quickly realized that my wife who was the assistant coach was a much better coach than I was, and he brought her on and changed our lives,” Mauser later told NBC News. “She loved every minute of it.”
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“He asked her to teach the kids defense,” Mauser said of his wife, adding Bryant said that wasn’t his specialty. “They called her the mother of defense.”
“She was beautiful, smart, funny,” he said of Christina Mauser. “She was incredibly deep … just an amazing person.”
Other victims included John Altobelli, the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California; his wife, Keri; and their daughter Alyssa. The college, in confirming the deaths, said in a statement that Altobelli had coached there for 27 years.
“John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball,” the school’s athletic director Jason Kehler said in a statement. “He truly personified what it means to be a baseball coach.”
Altobelli led his team to four state championships during his career, and was named the National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2019.
Kehler said Altobelli, who people called “Coach Alto,” treated his players like family and offered the school’s deepest condolences to the whole family. Altobelli’s daughter, Alyssa, was best friends with Kobe’s daughter, Gianna, Mauser said. “Every time I’d see them they’d be laughing and talking.”
Payton Chester, a 13-year-old basketball player, and her mother, Sarah, were also passengers on the helicopter. Calling the crash a “freak accident,” Payton’s grandmother Catherine George told NBC News that “they had to get on the helicopter as a convenience today, they usually drove by car.”
Mauser said he and his family have been trying to avoid watching the news, but when he briefly turned on SportsCenter last night, one of his daughters turned to him and said it was “nice to know everyone was hurting along with us.“
“I feel for everybody involved and everybody who is hurting right now,” he said. “Because as hard as it is for us, I know it’s hard for everybody else too.”
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