5:12 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: You know — please, have a seat. Everybody but Blumenthal and Doug. (Laughter.) I’ve been trying to get them to stand for me for years. (Laughter.) For years.
Well, welcome to the White House, everybody. I really mean it. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being here. And know — I tell you, it’s a really honor to have you all here.
And congratulations to the ni- — to 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champions, the UConn Huskies! (Applause.)
Doug was going all through central America telling — talking about you guys.
And you got to stop getting in parades. (Laughter.) You know what I mean?
SECRETARY CARDONA: I’m back in action.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re back in action? (Laughter.) All right.
Well, we also have the first — the Second Gentleman here. “Second Gentleman” — that sounds ridiculous. This guy is a hell of a lawyer, and he gave up his practice so his wife could be Vice President of the United States of America. But he’s still (inaudible). (Applause.)
Well, I tell you what, Dick, your boys done it, man. And I want to thank everybody for being here today.
And members of — you know, we have a few people who went to UConn and kind of like it, you know? (Laughter.) I was telling the president of the university that when I was in school —
(Toddler crying in audience.)
That’s okay. Look, she’s allowed to do anything you want. (Laughter.) Kids rule in my house, okay? What’s the matter?
AUDIENCE: Aww —
THE PRESIDENT: What’s the matter? (Laughter.) I don’t blame you. I’m bored with me, too. (Laughter and applause.) Yeah. How you doing?
How old is she?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: Two years old. I tell you what — that’s a good age. (Laughter.) Hold her tight.
Well, at any rate, look, all kidding aside, when I was — when I was in college, I didn’t play basketball. I played football. But I did — and one of my best friends, a guy named Pete McLaughlin, and he played for Providence College — used to be competitive with you guys back 100 years ago. (Laughter.) And — but we always talked about Connecticut. And we had a couple great basketball players from the University of Connecticut from Delaware who happened to be women basketball All-Americans. (Applause.)
But — any rate, we also have — you know, we got a guy — we needed someone to be the Department of Education, and we found this guy, Cardona. You know what I mean? (Laughter.)
Miguel has four different degrees from the — your great university, and he’s been a — you know, I don’t know — but — but he couldn’t make the team. (Laughter.) That’s the real cl- — he knows UConn has brought — he’s been one of the great fans for years, a Connecticut guy.
And, look, one of the premier programs in the country, you all have. And that’s not hyperbole; it’s a fact.
Thirty-six NCAA tournaments. Six Final Fours. Five national titles — ’99, 2004, 2011, 2014, and this year. Not bad, guys. Not bad. (Applause.)
And you started this year, you know, unranked, and then you went 14 and 0. And just to keep everybody’s interest, you lost the next six of eight games — (laughter) — and they counted you out. It’s not bad, isn’t it? But you got a coach who decided that doesn’t matter. And, hell, he knows something about how to win.
By the way, he’s brand new to basketball, in the family. (Laughter.) You know — but you bounced back with a resounding 15-2 run. That ain’t bad, man. (Applause.) 15-2 run.
Started — seeded — you were a fourth seed, and you won every single game by double digits; in the final blowout, a fifth national championship. Congratulations. Congratulations.
Nothing like a comeback, man. (Applause.)
I think you all did that deliberately. You know what I mean? (Laughter.) To keep people —
Look, you know, and — and did it all as a team, and the whole country could see it. Anybody who loves basketball watched it all.
When three players fast through Final Four because of — it falls during the holy month of Ramadan, the country sees what it means to commit to something bigger than yourself.
And when another star player scores 16 points after being sick all night with food poisoning — (laughter) — he’s nuts. I mean, I don’t — I don’t know how the hell you did that, man. (Laughter.) I don’t know how you did that. Pretty — you know, it gets the sense of what it means to dig deep and show up for others.
And, you know, with Coach Hurley’s family in the stands, on the sidelines, on the court, the country got to see what it means to devote your whole life to a shared passion.
And, Coach, you had an unwavering and unyielding belief in this team, and it was clear and it made a difference.
And this team is proof that there’s no quit in UConn, just like there’s no quit in America. None.
There’s nothing we can’t do when we believe we can do it if we do it together. And that’s exactly what you all did. You stood up.
And that’s what sports and this country is all about: possibilities. Possibilities.
And one more thing: I hosted the LSU women’s team earlier today for their championship title.
Jordan, I heard you and your cousin — you know, Angel — played one-on-one growing up. Is that true?
MR. HAWKINS: We did.
THE PRESIDENT: You did? (Laughter.)
One’s the child of a — a bro- — a brother; the other, the child of a sister.
So, I’ve set up a basketball court on the South Lawn. (Laughter.) There’s a court down there by the tennis courts.
And, Jordan, your uncle thinks he can take you as well. (Laughter.) So I just want you to know that we’re going to — after this, we’re all going down to see that one-on-one game.
I tell you what, man — it’s in the blood, isn’t it? (Laughter.) It’s in the blood. What a gr- — what an incredible thing. What an incredible thing.
And congratulations to the whole UConn Nation. It’s got to make you feel good.
How many here are — family members have a son or a dau- — a son up here? A mom, dad, brother, sister out there? Raise your hand.
Look at whose hand goes up first. I’ve got to find out what your name is. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: What’s your name?
THE PRESIDENT: Do you know anybody up there?
CHILD: My dad.
THE PRESIDENT: You’re kidding me. (Laughter.)
Hi. What’s your name?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Go ahead. Say it in the microphone.
THE PRESIDENT: Cash, I tell you what — I want to know who your haberdasher is, man. (Laughter.) You’re looking good.
Anyway, look, this is a family affair.
I want to wish you — thank you all for being here.
And, you know, there’s nothing like — think about any — whenever the nation has been down, what’s always brought us back? Sports. Sport.
And thank God we’re not down yet. But you guys are something else. And I wish you all the best of luck in the whole world.
How — how many of you graduate this year or leave this year? Well, you got — we got room on the team down here too, you know what I mean?
So, thank you so very, very much.
And, Madam President, thank you. I started to ask the president about the team, and she started to tell me it was a great team, but then she started to tell me all the other significant things that happened at UConn. Okay? (Laughter.)
And so, I just want you to know — and I want to just wish you all the best of luck. And God bless you all.
And I’m going to turn this over to Coach Hurley. Coach? (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: (Referring to the onstage microphones.) Any — any one you want to do.
COACH HURLEY: It — I — I —
THE PRESIDENT: And, by the way, he married a Jersey girl too. (Laughter.)
COACH HURLEY: Jersey girl. It’s worked out pretty good for both of us. Yeah, no doubt.
THE PRESIDENT: We both married way above our station.
COACH HURLEY: Yes, we did. (Laughter.) Yes, we did.
I always would really dread speaking after Gino Auriemma. This is a whole ‘nother level — (laughter) — whole ‘nother level of fear right here, coming up here.
So I’m going to stick to my script. (Laughter.)
Yes, so, Mr. President, you know, you — you grow up in sports, and, obviously, you know the sacrifice and commitment, you know, it takes to achieve anything great. But, you know, you grow up, you’re working and competing, you know, dreaming of achieving something, like, really enormous, something really big in team sports.
And it’s, like, the first thing that comes to your mind — right? — when you do something big and win that incredible championship is like: You know, we get to go to the White House and meet the President of the United States. And it’s such an honor to meet you, President Biden. So thank you for having us here.
And it’s an honor that you truly got to earn, you know? To — you know, to earn one of the greatest honors in sports, you’ve — you know, you’ve got to work. And, obviously, you never forget it. You know, but you earn it through having tremendous, you know, culture and brotherhood, you know, which we work to every day to develop as a program.
Obviously, this team’s — you know, their abilities on the court, you know, were unmatched in terms of anyone in the country. This was, you know, truly the elite team — you know, the elite team in college basketball.
We had the greatest leadership in terms of what we got from our older players in Andre Jackson and Adama Sanogo. We had a really miserable — (applause) — yeah. Right? You know, like politics and sports, two tough businesses to get into, right? (Laughter.)
You know, January was a rough month, and the leadership of those two men, you know, really got us through a really difficult time. And, you know, this becomes, you know, one of the greatest teams in UConn’s storied basketball history. This team right here. So, I couldn’t be prouder.
Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Vice President Harris, Second Gentleman Emhoff, and the White House staff who have been unbelievable today — you know, it’s crazy too, by the way, right? These cameras and all the — (laughter) — you know, the people playing the music. (Laughter.) Telling —
THE PRESIDENT: (Inaudible.)
COACH HURLEY: No, you know what was cra- — I got to say this too: The police escorts — we could get used to that. (Laughter.) Right? And particularly when you’re in Houston, man. Those cops — the police there in Houston, man, they were a well-oiled machine. We were getting places fast. (Laughter.)
But on behalf of UCo- — University of Connecticut, the great state of Connecticut, and then all of Husky Nation, I just want to thank you and your administration, you know, for providing for us like what will be a day and memories we will never forget.
And then, as a token of our appreciation over there, we’re going to have our captains, Adama Sanogo and Andre Jackson Jr., present you with that UConn jersey. (Laughter.) You don’t want him posting you up. (Laughter.) That’s a big boy.
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no, I want him standing next to me. (Laughter.)
(Mr. Jackson Jr. and Mr. Sanogo present the President with a gift.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I thought these guys were standing on risers. (Laughter.)
5:24 P.M. EDT