LOS ANGELES – Athletes are frequently praised for their incredible competitive feats or the toughness they show on a basketball court, but that pales in comparison to the strength Alvin Gentry witnessed inside an NBA arena on Monday.
New Orleans’ fifth-year head coach – who joined Pelicans staff members Monday in attending a memorial service at Staples Center for Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant – was deeply impacted by the message from Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife. Gentry compared Vanessa’s words to that of a February 2016 eulogy given by Gentry’s New Orleans predecessor, Monty Williams, at a funeral for Williams’ wife Ingrid.
“I thought it was the most amazing thing I’ve been to in a long, long time,” Gentry said. “To me, what Vanessa did, I don’t know if words could ever explain it. To be up there and have that kind of poise, and the way she spoke about Kobe and Gigi, I thought it was truly amazing. The only (speaker) I’ve seen even close to that is what Monty Williams did at the memorial for his wife. I’m not sure there are a whole lot of people who could do that with the poise and speak so great about the two people she loved dearly.”
Based on the Pelicans’ schedule, Gentry was already in Los Angeles late Sunday night after his team defeated Golden State in the early evening.
“It was an amazing thing to be a part of, for us to be here and for us to be able to go to it,” Gentry said of the coincidence.
Gentry was a head coach or assistant coach throughout Bryant’s 20-year NBA career, competing against him countless times. In 2010, Gentry led Phoenix to the Western Conference finals, where the Suns lost a hard-fought series 4-2 to the Lakers and Bryant, who averaged 33.7 points in the six games. Gentry most remembers Bryant for his extraordinary competitiveness, which led to Bryant becoming one of the greatest players in NBA history.
“There was never anything that he didn’t think he could get done,” Gentry said. “He knew the only way to get it done was through hard work – he never took a shortcut in his life. That’s the one thing I admire (most). Everything he accomplished, he did it through hard work. He outworked anybody there.”