[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[November 9, 1998]
[Pages 2005-2007]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the 1998 NCAA Men's and Women's Basketball Champions
November 9, 1998

    The President. Thank you. Please be seated. I want to welcome, in 
addition to the coaches and the university officials and the teams, 
Senator Ford from Kentucky; Senator Frist from Tennessee; Congressman 
Whitfield; Governor Patton; President Johnson; Coach Summitt; the team's 
captains, Chamique Holdsclaw and Kellie Jolly; Associate Athletic 
Director Larry Ivey; Coach Smith; your team captains, Allen Edwards, 
Cameron Mills, and Jeff Sheppard.
    Before I begin, I have to turn the microphone over to someone who 
couldn't be here today, but who never misses an opportunity to remind me 
at this occasion that there is a team from Tennessee here always. 
[Laughter] Laura just said, the Vice President is supposed to call in, 
but he's a little late. I like it; I'll get to talk some more. Not yet? 
Give me the high sign, Laura.
    So we'll go on with the program. [Laughter] I love November, not 
only because of Thanksgiving but because we get to start the college 
basketball season. It's the time of year also, lately, where I welcome 
the Lady Vols and the Kentucky Wildcats here. [Laughter] For Kentucky, 
it's been 2 out of the last 3 years. For the Vols--this reminds me, when 
I was Governor, there was this wonderful civics teacher in a little town 
in Arkansas. And every year, she was such a devoted teacher, she would 
always bring her class to the Governor's office. And every year, Pat 
Summitt brings her class to the White House. [Laughter] Just part of a 
civics lesson that is unmatched in NCAA women's basketball history. 
[Applause] Thank you.
    I want to congratulate Pat Summitt and Tubby Smith for knowing how 
to turn talent into victory. They are two different things, as we all 
    Let me begin by saluting the Lady Vols basketball team. There are 
few things in sports more thrilling than the way they roared off the 
bench in the first half of the championship in Indianapolis, scoring 55 
points, tying an NCAA record--Tennessee's 61st NCAA win, the most by any 
school ever, at the end of a 39-0 season.
    Not only that, they won each of these games by an average of 30 
points. That's something that would not only make any coach jealous; it 
makes any politician drool. [Laughter] The Lady Vols have been called 
flawless, mega talents, without peer, merciless. Some say they are the 
best team ever to step on the floor, anytime, anywhere.
    It was, of course, a victory for the team. But I think we should 
note that Chamique Holdsclaw led the Vols in scoring, was the Final Four 
MVP, swept Player of the Year honors--coincidentally, wearing number 23. 
And like Michael Jordan, she dominated every game of the season, 
averaging over 23.5 points a game; in the final victory, an impressive 
25 points and 10 rebounds. I say that because young people in this 
country, especially young girls who are learning about women's 
basketball, will hear a lot more about her.

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    And let me also salute Coach Pat Summitt, Coach of the Year for the 
sixth time in 12 years, her third consecutive championship team. Only 
John Wooden has more collegiate basketball championships, and she's 
gaining on him every day. Thank you again for what you have done.
    And now, is the Vice President on the phone?
    The Vice President. Yes, I'm here, Mr. President. [Laughter]
    The President. Okay, gloating time. [Laughter]

[At this point, the Vice President made brief remarks by telephone from 
Carthage, TN.]

    The President. Thank you. I can't help noting that there's a little 
modest football game this weekend between Tennessee and Arkansas. 
[Laughter] And both teams are undefeated, but Tennessee is much higher 
ranked. And both the Vice President and Senator Frist refused to give me 
any points when we bet on this game. So I'm either going to have more 
barbecue than I can eat, or I'm going to have to take out a loan to 
finish Chelsea's college education after this. [Laughter] But I'm 
looking forward to it.
    I'd like to say a few words about the Kentucky Wildcats. First of 
all, I think all of us who watched the tournament this year thought it 
was one of the best tournaments that any of us could remember. And the 
fact that Kentucky did come back by 10 points at halftime in the last 
game to defeat Utah--quite clearly a great, great team--the fact that we 
had so much competition in the final teams that made it certainly to the 
Final Four, but even the last 16--it was an unbelievable tournament. And 
Kentucky became the first team ever to come back from such a large 
deficit in the final game of the tournament--with heart, skill, and 
    I want to congratulate the Final Four MVP, Jeff Sheppard, and all of 
his teammates. There were many solid scorers, no one who ran away. 
Kentucky had a team. They also did something that I think is very 
important for great teams. They got better and better and better as the 
season went on, winning their last 11 games by an average of 20 points.
    Of course, Coach Tubby Smith faced a difficult task in his first 
year at Kentucky. People expected him to win all the time, and he had to 
start with that burden of expectation. I think the fact that he began 
his working life in tobacco fields with 16 brothers and sisters taught 
him something about teamwork. And he certainly brought what he knew 
about teamwork and family values and spirit to this work.
    Jeff Sheppard said of Coach Smith that ``he does a really good job 
of teaching us the game of basketball, but an even better job of 
teaching us how to be men.'' I think that says more than anything I 
could possibly say about this remarkable man and his remarkable team.
    Now I'd like to introduce Dr. Joe Johnson, the president of the 
University of Tennessee.

[University of Tennessee president Joseph E. Johnson and Lady Volunteers 
coach Pat Summitt each made brief remarks. Players Kellie Jolly and 
Chamique Holdsclaw then presented the President with gifts.]

    The President. I now have a whole wardrobe from them. [Laughter] 
It's great; I have all these matching workout clothes. Thank you very, 
very much.
    Now I'd like to ask Larry Ivey, the University of Kentucky associate 
athletic director, to come up.

[University of Kentucky associate athletic director Larry Ivey and 
Wildcats coach Tubby Smith each made brief remarks. Players Jeff 
Sheppard and Cameron Mills then presented the President with a Wildcats 
jersey, and Mr. Mills commented that the President never wore the jersey 
given to him after the Wildcats won their previous championship.]

    The President. Look how big it is. Cameron, for all you know, I 
slept in it. Look at this. [Laughter] Look, you are laughing about this, 
but I'll have you know that I was 6'8'' before I got elected President. 
    Well, thank you very much. Let me say to both of you, I follow 
basketball quite closely, and I have had occasion to get to know Pat 
Summitt and her husband, R.B., and fine son, Tyler, who is kind of 
getting bored coming to see me every year. [Laughter] But it's nice for 
me because I've watched him grow up. [Laughter] He weighed about 15 
pounds the first time I--and he came to see Buddy today, so my dog is 
eagerly awaiting his reunion there.
    I also have very much admired Tubby Smith from afar. And I like it 
when teams can come back. Although I must say, I prefer to get ahead and 
stay ahead. [Laughter] But sometimes you just have to come back. 
[Laughter] So I think we've had the best of both worlds here today and a 
lot of what is best about our country.

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    Thank you, and God bless you all. Welcome.

Note: The President spoke at 6:10 p.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Paul E. Patton of Kentucky; 
NBA Chicago Bulls player Michael Jordan; and UCLA head basketball coach 
emeritus John Wooden.