Washington – A relaxed and jovial President Obama honored the UConn men’s and women’s basketball teams Monday at an elegant event in the East Room of the White House that showed the president was on his game.
Of the many times the teams have won the NCAA championship – this is two wins in a row for the women Huskies – the president asked “What’s up with you guys? Why aren’t you sharing?”
This is the women’s Huskies team’s ninth national title. For the men’s team, it is their fourth title in the last 16 years.
Obama praised UConn coaches Kevin Ollie and Geno Auriemma and singled out some of the players, including Breanna Stewart, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, women’s team captain Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley.
“And Stefanie, I did not forget that you challenged me to a dance-off last year,” Obama said. “It is going to happen. It is going to happen.”
The president kept his promise a few minutes later by walking over to Dolson to ask her to dance. A startled Dolson stumbled off the riser on which the teams were standing and declined to dance.
Of Ollie, Obama said “he’s always confident and calm and collected.”
“In fact, a sportswriter once referred to him as ‘our future President.’ I don’t know with a name like ‘Kevin’ whether that’s possible. But who knows, anything could happen,” the president said.
UConn President Susan Herbst flew down on Tuesday with members of the mens’s and women’s teams who still live in Connecticut. Many have already been drafted for professional teams – Dolson, for instance is playing for the Washinton Mystics — or left the state for other reasons.
“Getting them together was a logistical nightmare,” Herbst said.
The only player who wasn’t at the White House was Niels Giffey, who is playing for Germany’s national basketball team.
It was a whirlwind trip,Herbst said, with a quick lunch at the Old Ebbitt Grill, a Washington landmark across from the White House, the trophy ceremony in the East Room and a reception afterwards. Then the team members who live in Connecticut planned to fly back home.
Although many of the Huskies are familiar with the routine, Harley told reporters this trip to Washington was “special because the men are here as well.”
Obama told the UConn players he expected this would not be the last time they met.
“This really isn’t goodbye probably, because I suspect I’ll see some of these folks again before I leave office,” the president said.