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A Day At The White House
WASHINGTON, D.C. (BASN) — I got notification only 48 hours before the event that I would be invited to the White House to attend the ceremony honoring the 2010 National Championship and undefeated UConn women’s basketball team.
I had been to the White House in 2001 in the celebration honoring the Notre Dame women and Duke men but that was a pre-911 ceremony and I knew full well that the security would be much tighter.
The event was originally scheduled for the lawn of the White House but it poured in Washington, D.C. that day and the event was rescheduled that morning for the East room, a large room which served many White House functions including a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition many years ago.
After going through security at a small hut outside of the White House I was sent into a holding room, which room serves as a situs for daily press briefings.
I immediately ran into the venerable Helen Thomas and had my picture taken with her. In speaking with her, I found out that she was quite a trip.
The press room itself was unimpressive and a lot smaller than press rooms at most women’s basketball venues.
After a half hour of waiting there we were summoned outside, only to stand in the pouring rain for about five minutes. We were then ushered into the East room and watched the UConn women rehearse where they would be standing for the event.
About five minutes later the UConn women came out again and within a minute it was announced that President Obama and head coach Geno Auriemma were on their way out.
While Obama was walking to the podium, he said “hi guys” to the media and assembled guests.
Obama appeared thinner and taller than on television.
He delivered a seven minute speech congratulating the UConn women for both achievement on the court and off the court and graciously accepted a team signed basketball from Maya Moore and a UConn jersey with Obama number 1 on the back from Tina Charles.
He waived to the crowd and walked out to another meeting as part of a hectic Monday in which his schedule was literally planned minute by minute well in advance of a typical Monday at the White House.
After the President’s talk, Auriemma appeared with three of his players in front of the Oval Office to answer questions about the trip.
He noted that it never grows old meeting the President and Moore added that she looks forward to making another trip to the White House next season.
UConn does lose Charles and WNBA player Kalana Greene, but Moore, the best players in women’s college basketball returns along with a strong support case.