Thousands of people gathered in Los Angeles Monday for a memorial to remember Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and others killed in a helicopter crash last month. Kobe Bryant was a legend in professional basketball and Gianna had aspirations of her own. One was to play for the UConn’s women’s basketball team.
UConn women's head basketball coach Geno Auriemma gave a heartfelt speech on Monday and then on Tuesday, he sat down with the TODAY Show to discuss his tribute to Kobe and his daughter, who was affectionately known as Gigi.
"As you can imagine, it would have been a very difficult thing to do had it been just Kobe and then you add that other layer of a child. Now you’re just … numb because you have no idea what it is that you can possibly say that can add any sort of comfort or anything when you’ve gone through something like that. For the longest time… I had no idea how in the world I was going to be able to come through and make anything make sense," Auriemma said in a televised interview from the UConn campus in Storrs.
At the memorial, Auriemma recalled a time when Kobe called him for advice on coaching because he wanted to coach Gianna's team.
"How ironic that he would talk to me about coaching? The uncoachable one wants to talk to me about coaching. Probably the most uncoachable player in the NBA during his career wants to know about coaching. I said 'why?' and he said he's coaching his daughter's team. I said 'Oh my God, that poor kid.' So when I watched the highlights of her playing, about the third or fourth time she touched the ball, Gianna passed it when she was open. I thought, she’s not listening to her father," Auriemma said at the Staples Center.
"He was so thorough in everything that he did, from what Michael Jordan talked about, wanting to know everything that Jordan did so that he could become that type of player," Auriemma told the TODAY Show. "He wanted to coach 12- and 13-year-olds and he wanted to coach them as if he’s coaching an NBA team to win an NBA championship, like Michael Jordan said, he was relentless and he left nothing in the tank."
On Tuesday morning, he followed up by saying Kobe would have really added to women's basketball.
"And what he was going to be able to do for women’s basketball was going to be unprecedented in the history of the game because he had the voice and he had the passion and not just because of Gigi, which obviously was a big part of it, but his care. He really cared and he was going to be able to put that voice and that kind of passion and that thoroughness. He was going to do that for women’s basketball and we’re going to miss that and we lost a great opportunity and we need somebody to take up that fight," Auriemma said on the Today Show.