President Barack Obama called his visit with the UConn men’s basketball team a “bittersweet day for me.”
After all, he did bet on another team-predicting that Kansas’ Jayhawks would take the NCAA tournament.
“On the one hand, I get to congratulate a great team and a great coach on winning the national championship,” Obama told the team at an early evening event at the White House. “On the other hand, I’m reminded once again that my bracket was a bust.”
Obama, who plays basketball “whenever I get a chance” and recently had to get 12 stitches after getting elbowed during a pick-up game, asked the Huskies to give him a heads up the “next time you guys decide to reel off 11 straight wins.”
In his remarks, Obama called out several individual players, including Shabazz Napier “who sang and danced and talked his way through a incredible freshman season” and Jeremy Lamb, “the anti-Shabazz,” who is quiet and “let his play do the talking.” And of course, UConn coach Jim Calhoun.
Calhoun said the team stopped by the Lincoln Memorial before making their way to the White House and said they’d taken inspiration from the stop, as well as Obama’s own political rise.
“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,” Calhoun said. “The basketball team, by the way, was kind of an underdog, much as you were. And who would have thought… maybe nine months ago we would be here. But you know what? Yes, we can.”
“I like that,” Obama said of Calhoun’s adoption of his 2008 presidential campaign slogan.