NCAA champs Arizona, Tennessee honored at White House
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton told the Tennessee women’s and Arizona men’s championship college basketball teams Monday that his knee injury last March was really a blessing in disguise.
``The only good thing about my agonizing injury ... was I got to see every game in the tournament that was on any channel on television,″ the president said.
Clinton greeted the basketball champions at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
Arizona won the NCAA basketball tournament last March 31 with an 84-79 overtime victory over defending champion Kentucky. Tennessee defended its title the day before with a 68-59 win over Old Dominion.
A White House visit has become old hat for Tennessee coach Pat Summitt who has won five titles since 1987. Clinton told Summitt he could empathize with what her team had gone through in reclaiming the championship.
``It’s tough to win those back-to-back championships. Al Gore and I know something about that,″ he quipped in raspy voice affected by laryngitis.
``President Clinton sounds like Pat Summitt after a few practices,″ Summitt said.
Vice President Al Gore, a Tennessee native who donned a black tie with orange basketballs for the occasion, said that every player who has stayed at Tennessee for four years under Summitt has graduated.
``That above all is the mark of a truly outstanding college coach,″ said Gore.
Arizona coach Lute Olson told Clinton just how much his team had to overcome in winning its first-ever NCAA title.
``It was a rebuilding year in the minds of everyone but the coaching staff and the team,″ Olson said.
Clinton said he enjoyed watching the Wildcats’ young team win its first title under Olson.
``I think it will be a long time before we see another team so young, so full of energy, so full of depth,″ Clinton said.
Miles Simon, Arizona’s most valuable player, gave Clinton a blue Wildcats jersey with the number one and ``Clinton″ on the back in red letters.
Gore received an orange-and-white Tennessee jersey with ``Gore″ on the back and the number 2 from Chamique Holdsclaw, Tennessee’s most valuable player.
The president also used the occasion to congratulate the Florida Marlins on winning the World Series on Sunday night.
``I would be remiss if I did not congratulate the Florida Marlins and the Cleveland Indians on a magnificent World Series,″ Clinton said.