President Obama Welcomes the UConn Huskies

The President:
Hello, everybody! (applause) Welcome. Please, have a
seat, have a seat. Have a seat. Welcome to the White House, and
congratulations to the Huskies on being the best college
basketball team in the land. (applause) Before we start, I want to
acknowledge a big Huskies fan that’s in the house —
Senator Joe Lieberman is here. (applause) I know he is proud of this team. I have to be honest — this
is a bittersweet day for me. (laughter) On the one hand, I get to
congratulate a great team and a great coach on winning
the national championship. On the other hand, I’m
reminded once again that my bracket was a bust. (laughter) I did not pick
UConn to win it all. That was a big mistake. (laughter) I was just mentioning to Coach
that it was because Andy Katz of ESPN told me there’s
no way Uconn was winning. (laughter) I did have these guys
going to the Elite Eight, and I was doing pretty well in
my pool at the beginning of the tournament, and then things
completely fell apart. But I was not alone. Let’s face it, this was a tough
year for a lot of brackets because teams like this
one shocked the world. So next time you guys decide
to reel off 11 straight wins, please let me know
ahead of time. (laughter) Because the truth is, UConn’s
perfect run through the Big East and the NCAA tournament was
a surprise to everybody but themselves and Coach. These guys knew they
had something special. And even though they finished
the regular season tied for ninth in the Big East, even
though there were some rough spots during the season, these
players just put their heads down, they worked hard, and
they focused on winning the games that counted. They succeeded because
everybody knew that they had a role to play. There was, of course,
Coach Calhoun, who now joins John
Wooden, Adolph Rupp, and Mike Krzyzewski and Bobby
Knight as the only coaches ever to win three national
championships. That’s pretty good
company there, Coach. (applause) There’s Shabazz Napier, who sang
and danced and talked his way through a incredible
freshman season. (laughter) If he’s making rabbit ears
behind me or anything like that, please stop him. (laughter) At the other end of the
spectrum there’s Jeremy Lamb. He’s sort of the anti-Shabazz. (laughter) He’s quiet. (laughter) But he let’s his
play do the talking, and exploded to average
15 points a game during the postseason. And then there’s
Kemba Walker who — (applause) — this is a guy who wanted to
go to UConn so badly in high school that he recruited them. Never afraid to
take a last shot. A player who will go down in
history as one of the greatest ever to wear the
Huskies’ uniform. And a player who always lived
by his dad’s advice that, “it’s not the size
of the person, it’s the size of the heart.” So if you put all that together
— young team, long-shot odds, and then a postseason run and
the Kemba show — that was a pretty inspiring season. I want to thank all the players,
all the coaches who held the basketball clinic earlier this
afternoon and inspiring some future stars here from D.C.
I think you made their year. And I want to thank everybody
who is involved in the UConn family, because obviously this
has been a great program for many, many years, Coach. And I know that you could not do
it without all the folks who are represented here today —
assistant coaches, trainers, folks in the
athletic department, everybody who has been so
supportive of this outstanding, outstanding program. So, congratulations
to all of you. Hopefully, we will
see you again soon. You got a bunch of freshmen,
so I don’t see why these guys couldn’t go on a
pretty good run here. But we couldn’t be
prouder of them, and I know that the great state
of Connecticut couldn’t be prouder of them as well. So, congratulations. (applause) Coach Calhoun:
Well, thank you, Mr. President. As you know, Kemba was waiting
for you — when you were up in the air, he was
down on the ground, because — unfortunately, he
actually was up in the air stuck at LaGuardia Airport
for three hours. But he did want that
one-on-one game with you. The President:
I’m ready. (laughter) Coach Calhoun:
Does he have enough game, you think? The President:
As long as he’s wearing
street shoes and a suit. (laughter) Coach Calhoun:
I like a guy with edges. (laughter) President and folks, I just want
to say it’s a thrill for us to be here representing the
state of Connecticut, certainly the University
of Connecticut. Joe Lieberman was there a long
time ago before we started going to the White House occasionally. The President:
It was a really long time ago. (laughter) Coach Calhoun:
Matter of fact — no, we’ll
get into that at another time. But it’s been a thrill. This year was reminding
me in many, many ways, between my wife and
myself, rooting you on. We stopped with the team
at the Lincoln Memorial, and I know how much
you admired Lincoln. I was telling our kids just
when great things happen, like — I happened to be buying
some bookmarks for the kids that you might recognize. The President:
Absolutely. Coach Calhoun:
And I said simply that
people like Lincoln and Martin Luther King and so
on, maybe our President, were speeding along in the
process of being something special that he truly is. And I believe that
and feel that way. This basketball team, by the
way, was kind of an underdog, much as you were. And who would have thought,
15 years ago — who would have thought maybe nine months
ago we would be here. But you know what? Yes, we can. (laughter and applause) The President:
Yes, we can. I like that. (applause) Coach Calhoun:
And like you,
Mr. President, yes, we did. We did because we cared. We cared as a family. We cared about each other. We accepted our roles. We accepted who we are, and did
anything possible to be the best we possibly can become. I watched your rise
— magnificent. I’ve watched their rise, and
it’s been one of the most emotional seasons
of my entire life. I’m proud of what
you’ve done, certainly, and I’m certainly
proud of my kids. And I just thank you very
much for having us here. And I want to especially
congratulate you, because last night I knew you
were pretty excited to watch the Chicago Bulls. Am I correct? The President:
I was. (laughter) Coach Calhoun:
That was an easy call. The President:
What do you think? Some of you guys may want to
look at the Bulls organization. They could use a shooter. (laughter) Coach Calhoun:
But once again, thank you for
everything, Mr. President. The President:
Thank you so much. Coach Calhoun:
We really appreciate
having you here, and you’re an inspiration to so
many young people — definitely a lot of the people
I’ve coached. And I just want to say that you
make us all feel proud about our country, and certainly feel
proud when you interject athletics and education, because
it’s very important to us. The President:
Thank you. Coach Calhoun:
And I’ve got someone
special to bring up now — Kemba Walker. Kemba, come on. (applause) Mr. Walker:
I just want to say — I
want to thank everybody for coming out. I have one question
for the President. I wanted to ask you, can
you teach me that walk? The President:
That walk? (laughter) That’s a special
presidential walk. (laughter) But maybe in a few years. You look pretty good behind
the podium, I got to say. (laughter) Mr. Walker:
I’m looking forward to that. (laughter) But on behalf of the team, we
all just — we want to give you this jersey. The President:
All right. Oh, man, that’s outstanding. Thank you. (applause) That’s a good-looking
jersey there. Absolutely. There you go. (applause) Fantastic. All right, we’re going to
strike the podium and get a good picture with the whole crew. (applause)

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