Beloved Harlem basketball coach dies in motorcycle accident

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- A Harlem basketball coach who started a non-profit league to benefit disadvantaged youngsters has died in a Manhattan motorcycle accident.

Neighbors are mourning Floyd "Skip" Branch, who was killed when his motorcycle struck a cement divider Saturday afternoon.

They lit candles at Cherry Tree Park Monday night over the loss of a man who touched many lives.

Branch started the NYC Bombsquad Basketball Classic in Harlem nearly 25 years ago. But basketball was just part of his impact.

"He had a sense of humor, but he was serious about respecting your parents, school, education was important," said parent Vanessa Burton.

"It was through basketball he taught you discipline, respect, teamwork, excellence, and it was those core principles that he used basketball to promote," said Branch's son, Floyd Branch III.

"He made sure the guys on the court weren't cursing, were respectful, respectful to the coaches, respectful to each other," said youth mentor Daniel Caldwell.

The Daily News quoted his brother, Kent Branch, a Georgia pastor, as saying Branch had taught basketball and mentored thousands of young people.

The Daily News said the accident happened just after Floyd Branch visited a loved one in hospice care and as he headed to meet his wife for a friend's 60th birthday celebration.

About 200 mourners grieved outside his Harlem home Sunday.

"As we got older we saw that this wasn't about basketball," said Branch's son. "It was about teaching me to be a better man and a better person."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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