In recent years, UConn women's basketball head coach Geno Auriemma had become very close with NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, as Bryant's daughter, Gianna, wanted to play her collegiate career with the Huskies.
Tragically, Kobe and Gianna, along with seven other people, passed away in a helicopter accident on January 26, sending shock waves through the sports worlds.
Auriemma, who noted how committed Gianna was to play for the Huskies, was asked to say some words about Kobe and Gianna at the memorial service held for them on Monday, something that he was both honored and saddened to do.
"The whole saga of Gigi wanting to play at UConn was really neat in how it came about," Auriemma said in a sit-down interview with SNY. "Here's this young kid who's a pretty good player, she wants to play basketball, which in and of itself is like crazy. Like my dad's Kobe Bryant, but I'm not afraid to put myself out there and play basketball and have everybody comment on that. Number two, to have that kind of mentality, that Mamba Mentality mindset that 'I want to go to UConn. Like I don't just want to play college basketball, I want to play at UConn … but then to really have that-that's what's going to happen, that's what I'm going to do. So that made their family and our family really one.
"When you're asked to (speak), it's kind of what in God's name are you going to say? You go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I remember when I hung up (the phone call from Vanessa Bryant), I just closed the door and I just was really - I really, really want to do this. I'm so glad she asked me, but I really don't want to do this. That's kind of how I felt."