President Obama Honors the 2016 UConn Women’s Basketball Team


The President: Hey! (applause) Everybody, have a seat. You guys have been
through this before. You know what to do. (laughter) Sit down. So there’s an old saying:
You can’t win all the time. (laughter) Except this team seems to
consistently want to bust that cliché. Ladies and gentlemen, for
the fourth year in a row, give it up for the NCAA
Champion, UConn Huskies! (applause) As you might be able to
tell, there are some Huskies fans in the house. (laughter) Almost the entire
congressional delegation from Connecticut. Mr. Larry McHugh, Chairman
of the University Of Connecticut Board
Of Trustees. David Benedict, the
University of Connecticut’s Athletic Director. When I called Coach Geno to
congratulate him for winning the title — again — I told
him we’d have his room ready for him when he gets here. It’s a small
room, with a cot. He doesn’t get the
Lincoln bedroom. But he does seem to spend
an awful lot of time here. As it turns out, the Huskies
are generous hosts, as well. I’ve got an open invitation
to join their Xbox 360 Rock Band group, the
Delta Commas. (laughter) In nine months I will have
some time on my hands. But congratulations, Coach,
on your 11th national championship. (applause) What an
extraordinary record. He has now broken the record
set by the legendary John Wooden for the most
championships by a head coach in Division I sports. And this season, the Huskies
broke another NCAA record — they won the most
consecutive national championships by one team. Coach Auriemma’s players
will tell you he is one of the foremost experts
on tough love. I’m pretty good
at that, too. You can ask Malia and Sasha. (laughter)
But to an entire generation
of athletes and young women, he has been a lifelong
teacher and friend. And all of us, even Huskies’
rivals, are going to be cheering him on when he
takes Team USA to the Women’s Basketball Gold
Medal in the Olympics this year. (applause) Bring on the Gold! This team has gone
undefeated twice in the past four years, including
this past season. It is a testament not only
to Geno, but to the captain of this team, and the
NCAA Player of the Year — Breanna Stewart. (applause) When she was a freshman,
Breanna said she came to UConn to win four
championships. And I’m sure Coach was
thinking, eh, don’t put so much pressure on yourself. (laughter) But if you got it, if you
can back it up, then you’re not being cocky, you’re
just being accurate. (laughter) And this team embraced
her challenge. Breanna and her fellow
seniors — Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson — led
the team by making sure everybody else knew what
was expected of them. Entering the first game of
the season, they were 0-0 like everybody else. They were playing
on the road. Some of their best
players had graduated, and expectations were high. But they quickly put any
uncertainty to rest, blowing out Ohio State by 44 points. They’d win the rest of
their games by an average of almost 40 points. Tough defense won the
championship rematch against Notre Dame. Overall toughness won a
hostile road game against the second-best team in the
country, South Carolina, before a sellout crowd
of 18,000 fired-up fans. And from then on, they just
marched straight to their fourth title. But thanks to Coach
Auriemma, this team has never let victory
go to their heads. They’re academic All-Stars. Over half the team has a
GPA of a 3.0 or higher. (applause) On Sunday, the seniors
walked across the stage and received their diploma. And they’re community
leaders, as well. They run a basketball clinic
at Halloween for local kids. A food drive leading
up to Thanksgiving. A blood drive for
the Red Cross. They collect toiletries from
their hotel stays throughout the year to donate
to families in need. They filmed a video for
elementary school students on the importance of
being kind to one another. So these young women know
what it means to give back to a community that
gives them so much. I have a feeling this
team will be back again. I will not be — I’ll be
honest, Coach, I’ll miss the visits, our annual
phone calls. But I just want to say how
incredibly proud I am of all that they have achieved. These women have
broken so many records. We don’t have time to run
through all of them, but throughout they’ve done it
with grace and good humor and good sportsmanship, and
an outlook that serves as an example for young athletes
— boys and girls — to look up to. Their triumphs are an
example of the ways that sports can bring an
incredible sense of competitive fire, but also
teamwork and cooperation, discipline and hard work
to a young person’s life. They’re going to continue
to be great athletes. They’re going to continue
to be great role models. I told them earlier that one
of the things this program has done is that each year
it has set a high bar for excellence, and each year
you see the women’s game getting better and better
and better, and giving all the other teams around the
country a mark to shoot for. And that is good not just
for young women who can see an example of extraordinary
athletic accomplishment that they can shoot for, but
it’s good for the boys, too, because maybe the boys get
a sense that they can’t mess with the girls because the
girls know what it means to be great athletes and
great competitors. So we could not be prouder
of them, couldn’t be prouder of the coach, couldn’t be
prouder of the program. Congratulations national
champions, the UConn Huskies. (applause) Coach Auriemma: You know,
the first time we came here in 2009, and then we came
back and we all enjoyed it, and we came back – (laughter) and I remember saying to
President Obama, I said, you know, your fourth
year is coming up. And I said, I don’t know
what the future holds. I said, I know we’re
going to be back. (laughter and applause) The President: That was true. COACH AURIEMMA: And he said, so am I. (laughter and applause) The President: That was true, too. Coach Auriemma: So, taking
that, I was hoping that we could get the rest of the
NCAA, after four years of Stewie and Ry and Mo, we
could just have a vote and see if we could have them
for another four years. (laughter) And, unfortunately, it
doesn’t work that way. We were fortunate to have
Tuck and Moriah and Stewie for four years, and Briana
joined us — Pulido. They’ve done something that
is pretty incredible in the sense that every other
player that goes to college for the rest of the time
that they play basketball can never beat, can never
top what they’ve done. Somebody can tie them,
somebody can do exactly what they’ve done. But they go to bed at night,
every night, knowing that no one in the history of
basketball has ever done what they’ve done, and no
one will ever be able to do more than they’ve done. And that’s something that
we all are really proud of. (applause) The trips down here are
memorable because we know that the President is a
tremendous basketball fan. He keeps on top of things. He picks us every year
in the NCAA tournament. (laughter) The President: It’s really tough. Clairvoyant. (laughter) Coach Auriemma: And you know — that’s the last thing I’ll say — you know, what I’m going to miss
the most is — I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten
a phone call from the President – (laughter) but my phone rings, and I
look at my phone and there is just, like, lines and it
says “Unknown Call.” And I’m like, I’m not
answering this. (laughter) I don’t know who it is. So I don’t answer. And then next day
— unknown call. I put it away. The third day, it said,
you better answer this. (laughter) And I picked it up,
and he’s on the phone. And I’m going to miss
the relationship. I’m going to miss
coming down here. I’m going to miss his
support that we have. But if you’ve been paying
attention to what’s going on in the media these last six
or seven months, as time goes by, we’re probably
going to miss him more than he misses us. Thank you. (applause) The President: Thank you. Very nice. (applause) Thank you. That was very kind. (applause) Thank you. I should point out — I
don’t know if maybe this is a secret — but we
couldn’t bring it out here. In addition to the
traditional jersey and basketball, Coach brought
me a rocking chair. (laughter) Now, I’m not taking
this as an insult. I’m assuming it was
meant with love. But, Coach, I do want you
to know I’m not going out to pasture here. (laughter) In fact, I might even be
able to come to one your games live. (applause) So don’t think you got
rid of me that easily. (applause)

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