After his last game, Kobe was done with basketball. He didn’t want to be a retired NBA legend, so Kobe was in his office the next day working on his production company. He came back to basketball because his daughter Gianna got her dad’s basketball bug. Gianna, as her father, wanted only the best, and in women’s basketball, there is no better than the U Conn basketball program and coach Geno Auriemma.
Gigi was as driven as her father, so she already committed to UConn at the age of 12. Coach Auriemma won the NCAA eleven times with the Huskies and developed a friendship with Kobe and Gigi. Yesterday afternoon he shared a few fantastic stories about them. Once Kobe decided to coach, he wanted to be the best – that meant learning from the best.
“And how ironic that he would talk to me about coaching. The uncoachable one wants to talk about coaching. Probably the most uncoachable player in the NBA during his career wants to know about coaching. I wanted to know why. He said ‘I’m coaching my daughter’s team.’ I said ‘Oh my God, that poor kid.’”Geno Auriemma
Kobe talked about his coaching approach a lot. He believed players should figure a lot of stuff on their own on the court – he was there to guide them in the right direction and make sure their fundamentals were sound. Tracy McGrady remembered his daughter’s team playing against Gigi’s. Kobe had all the players on the team doing footwork drills before the game. T-Mac told him it was a bit advanced for that age, but wasn’t surprised given it was Kobe.
“So when I watched highlights of her play, and on 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.’”Geno Auriemma
Kobe would call coach Auriemma and ask advice about defensive drills. The team would have a practice that night, and Kobe wanted to prepare. He wondered about the most important things when teaching man-to-man defense. Auriemma reminded Kobe that they were 13 years old, and just telling them to try and stay in front of their defensive assignment was enough. That’s when Mamba would take over the dad.
But when Kobe and Gigi came to visit coach Auriemma and the team in the locker-room, Gigi was excited. That was Gigi’s moment, and he didn’t want to steal anything from it.
“The most impressive thing about that time was that Kobe stepped back as far as he could, so anyone taking pictures, anyone there would now know this was Kobe Bryant’s daughter. This was her moment, her time to shine; this was her time to experience all the things he experiences all his life. He was dad; he wasn’t being Kobe Bryant.”Geno Auriemma
Coach Auriemma finished by pointing out the most important team of Kobe’s life is still here. Natalia, Bianka, Capri, and Vanessa will have to take it one day at a time, and all fans of basketball will be there to carry on Gianna’s and Kobe’s legacy.