“We have some amazing women in this room and you just heard from three of them. I’m Geno Auriemma the coach of the UConn women’s basketball program.
A lot of people are going to talk about basketball today. And I don’t know that that’s why I’m here. I’m not here for the basketball court and tried to write a long flowing speech about basketball and I can’t do it. There’s too many thoughts in my head. Ever since Vanessa asked me to speak too many things that made me realize more that I’m here as a father, not as a basketball coach. And us Italians as these just shows you, very, we’re very, very emotional people right Mike, he’s half Italian.
So the thoughts that I started to have. After I was asked to speak. We’re obviously about all the people that were on board. And if you’re a father, a grandfather. You feel a different a different kind of emotion when there’s children involved. Because this is always about the children. We’ve lived our lives. We have a little bit left, they’re just starting their lives. And then my next thought came to the original team that Kobe was responsible for Natalia, Bianca, Capri, Vanessa.
Because we’re always teammates, you know, we’re always on a team. Sometimes it’s a big team sometimes it’s a small team. Most important to Kobe and I shared some history, he started in Italy went to Philadelphia, and then went to the limelight. And the lights, and glamour of LA I went to Philadelphia went to Philly and went to cows up in the stores.
That was a joke because there’s no lights in there’s no glitz and glamour in Storrs, Connecticut. 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. So when I watched the highlights of her playing 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.
So we will call and say what kind of defensive drills should I do, we have practice and I went to work on defense. What do you think? The most important thing in teaching man to man further proof he never listened to one word any of his coaches told him, he’s leading them I say Kobe they’re 13 years old I think you ought to just say hey you know, see the kid with the ball, try not to let her go by you and see if you’re guarding the other guy is hitting see that kid with the ball over the head don’t throw the ball to your guy.
Keep it kind of simple, you know, he said I want to know like what are the rotations when they drive I said come on come on come on.
So these are the conversations that we have both as basketball, people, and as dads who have ever coached their kids. If you’ve ever been in that situation, like a lot of people here in this room probably happened. And I remember when Gigi came. As you saw in that video, she came to our very first, the very first game that she came to, and she came into the locker room. And here she is. And the look on her face. The smile, the way her eyes just took everything in how excited she was to be around in her mind royalty surrounding her father’s royalty. And she’s excited to be around royalty there looks just like what she wants to be.
And the most impressive thing about that point in time was how Kobe step as far back as he could. So anyone taking pictures, anyone there would not know that this was Kobe Bryant’s daughter. This was her moment. This is was her time to shine. This was her time to experience all the things that he’s experienced as a life. He was being dad that he wasn’t being Kobe Bryant. And he was allowing Gigi, to be Gigi and not Kobe Bryant’s daughter, in today’s day and age, that’s a hell of a thing for parents to be able to do. Imma leave you with just two things. We got a letter. Oh, I gotta tell you about. You didn’t see it, but she did meet the Oregon Ducks women’s basketball team.
And they all gathered around and said you want to take your picture. And everybody ran over and Gigi goes ‘naw I’m good’. She did what her heart was. and you know that little sarcasm, “i’m good”. And when they came to when they came to UConn and they sat behind the bench. And there’s dad, bringing his daughter to a game. And they have their shirts on and she’s got this coat on and she has her hat on, and she’s just a little kid at a game. And again, I felt more like a dad than I felt as a basketball coach, because I’ve done that with my kids.
Lastly, number 24. Number eight. And number two, those are basketball numbers. Those are numbers in the past. Those are numbers that we’re not going to get back what we do have is today how many numbers of kids like Dianna, have been inspired to do more to work harder to strive for more. And the numbers we also don’t have just how many numbers of kids in the future, and women are going to be inspired by Gigi’s life. How many fathers are inspired by Kobe to be fathers, to really be fathers.
The way a father supposed to be in this room is an incredible amount of talent in this room is maybe the greatest collection of talent that I’ve ever been around. But in this room there’s a family. And there’s still a team back home. And they still have a great coach. And I’m going to be rooting for that team from your own and. Thank you very much.”