The Huskies were honored at the White House today for winning their NCAA record-tying eighth national championship in April. It was their seventh trip overall, excluding 2000 when they were unable to schedule a trip, and their third time being hosted by President Barack Obama (2009, 2010).
Here is what Obama had to say today during his seven-minute speech …“Hello, everybody. Welcome to the White House, everybody. Congratulations to the NCAA champion UConn Huskies. Congratulations to Coach Auriemma on your record-tying eighth national championship. I see this guy too much. Keep in mind, a lot of presidents don’t even get eight years in the White House. He’s spent more time than some presidents in the White House. And he’s not term-limited so he can just keep on going.
“We’ve got UConn president Susan Herbst here. We’ve got some outstanding Huskies fans in the house, including several proud members of your congressional delegation. Probably the most important person here is, not Coach Geno, but Coach Geno’s mom who is here. She’s so proud. And she’s gorgeous. And that’s where you got a good head of hair (looking over at Geno).
“So I have to say to the Huskies, `I’ve missed you guys.’ It’s been a couple years. Seniors Heather Buck, Caroline Doty made the trip to the White House in 2009. So this is old hat for them. Kelly Faris joined them in 2010. Now back then they were in the middle of a 90-game winning streak. I reminded Geno at the time when I called him that over the first 23 months I was in office he didn’t lose once. He just pointed out to me that when they won the championship I went on to win re-election. So he thinks we’ve got a good thing going here.
“Now most years I think for most teams being a champion isn’t about dominating the way that you did back them. It’s about being at your best when the stakes are highest, and that’s what made this team so special. To get that national title they had to go through a team that, let’s face it, had had your number during some previous games, Notre Dame. Heading into this season’s tournament you had played them three times. You had lost three. That heartbreaker in the Big East finals. After that game some teams might have lowered their sights, but rather than get discouraged Geno gathered you together in the locker room, I understand, and said, `I’m going to show you how to win a championship.’ And as Kelly pointed out, Geno’s pretty good at his job. He knows how to win championships. So it looked tough at the time, but these folks didn’t stop believing in themselves. I have to confess that my bracketology needs to work (Obama picked Baylor to win the title).
“Breanna Stewart had the game of her life, became the first freshman in 25 years to be named Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four. Bria Hartley, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Kelly Faris earned their spots on the all-tournament team. After losing their first three games against Notre Dame by a combined 12 points they won the last one by 18. After that, no matter how talented Louisville was, there wasn’t much doubt that you’d take another title home to Storrs or that thousands of fans would be waiting to join them in celebration because, as any UConn fan will tell you, folks just love this team. And it goes beyond what they do on the court. One fan came to the Victory Parade to take pictures for his daughter and he was quoted as saying, `We come to as many games as we can because they are truly amazing. They’re great role models.’ And that’s true in the classroom. I want to congratulate all three seniors on earning not just another title but earning their college degrees as well.
“It is true overseas where a lot of these folks played on Team USA. Whether it’s Geno and the six UConn Huskies who helped bring home the gold at the London Olympics or Breanna leading our Under-19 team to a championship just a few days ago. When they’re not hitting the books or representing their country they find time to get involved in the community. Last year players visited the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for children with serious illnesses, joined the Walk for Autism. Geno just held his 11th annual charity golf tournament. And while you may be rivals with Baylor on the court, you joined together off the court to raise over $30,000 for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. And so that’s why we’re so happy to have you all back to the White House. These are just some incredible athletes. They’ve made their mark as one of the great sports dynasties of our time. But they’re also just really outstanding young women. You couldn’t be prouder of them. I know some parents may be here, and I know you could not be prouder of them. And I told them, and I always say this as the father of two young, beautiful, athletic and tall daughters, it just always puts a smile on my face whenever I see such class acts represent their school and their country so well. So congratulations UConn. Good luck as you get ready for the fall. I told them to take a little time off, but they said Coach won’t let them. But I’m overruling him, `Take a weekend. Just relax a little bit.’ Congratulations.’’
Auriemma then presented Obama with a signed basketball that contained the final score of the NCAA tournament final against Louisville (93-60) and a blue national championship jacket with “President Obama’’ embroidered in the front on the upper right side.
“That’s some nice swag,’’ Obama said referring to the jacket. “That’s beautiful.’’
“You can wear that after you break a sweat,’’ Auriemma said. “But these are the kinds of things that I’m sure you get all the time.’’
“That doesn’t make it less important,’’ Obama said.
“Well, we owed you a basketball because the last time we were here Renee Montgomery stole yours,’’ Auriemma said.
“I noticed that,’’ Obama said.
“I know. I know,’’ Auriemma said. “So we figured we’d bring you one back and if you want to use it on the court go ahead and do that.
“But thank you for having us. People ask if it ever gets old. And it doesn’t get old. I hope we can come back for the rest of your administration.’’
“Thank you so much,’’ Obama said. “I appreciate that.’’