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Obama Congratulates the Tar Heels

President Obama receives a University of North Carolina basketball jersey from head coach Roy Williams during an event honoring the team for its 2009 NCAA championship. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

By Michael D. Shear
When the president's number one assistant is a Duke man and a former basketball champion, you might think the Tar Heels wouldn't be welcome.

But when the president famously picks the North Carolina team to win the NCAA tournament, and they succeed, the invitations get put in the mail.

And so today, President Obama hosted the 2009 NCAA champion team from the University of North Carolina on the South Lawn of the White House, offering his congratulations but choosing not to shoot a few hoops on the presidential court.

"Welcome to the White House and congratulations," Obama said after emerging from the White House at 2:11 p.m. It took only two minutes to get to his real message:

"More importantly," he said, "thanks for salvaging my bracket and vindicating me in the eyes of everyone."

Obama's personal assistant, Reggie Love, is a former Duke player whose membership on the 2001 team makes him a former champion. Obama noted the rivalry, saying that everyone on his staff was excited about the team's arrival -- except maybe Love.

"He wants to scrimmage with you guys," Obama said. "We'll arrange that."

Obama offered serious praise for the team's academic achievement, noting that they had the highest number of graduates of any of the final four teams. He had specific kudos for Coach Roy Williams, who he said was committed to the development of his players as men as well as athletes.

But it was clear that Obama -- who fancies himself a pretty good basketball player -- was loving this particular perk of being president.

He joked with Tar Heels guard Jack Wooten, reminding him of the scrimmage Obama had with the team as a candidate last year. He noted that both he and the team had good luck after that -- "They're now national champions and I'm now president." -- but recalled that Wooten roughed him up.

"He stole the ball from me, blocked my shot," Obama said, adding that there were "no hard feelings."

Williams presented Obama with a white-and-powder-blue Tar Heels jersey -- "OBAMA 1" -- and several senior members of the team gave the president a large, framed picture of the scrimmage from last year.

By Web Politics Editor  |  May 11, 2009; 2:52 PM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , Barack Obama , Washington Life  
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It is ironic that Obama and UNC @ Chapel Hill's historic former Coach, Dean Smith, share visionary and pragmatic characteristics and live life with honor. To see President Obama standing there with current coach Roy Williams, a consistent opportunist and corner cutter at both Kansas and UNC who seems to stand for nothing related to honor, rather than the President standing with Smith, who risked his job to stand up for civil rights and other causes unpopular in North Carolina at the time, seems out of balance.

Posted by: PostToastie | May 11, 2009 10:55 PM | Report abuse

not to be a stickler but the sentence "Williams presented Obama with a white-and-powder-blue Tar Heels jersey.." should have read "white-and-Carolina-blue"

powder blue doesn't exist in Chapel Hill.

Posted by: carolinagirl10 | May 11, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

The president "famously" made the pick for UNC to win? This the team entering the season at #1, held that spot for much of the season, and was justly awarded the highest seed in the NCAA tournament. In other words, UNC was probably the most picked team for college hoop fans' brackets nation-wide. I am not knocking Obama's good fortune in picking the winning team but calling it the pick 'famous' is, I'd say, fairly indicative of the gushing love affair Mr. Shear and the WP have for this guy. Famous, my foot.

Posted by: cfw730 | May 11, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Just need Coach K in the picture to complete the "Axis of Evil".

Just a joke everyone, relax.

Posted by: island1 | May 11, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

It's sad to see our president cavorting with a team colored in such a poor shade of blue.

Posted by: Corn_Laden | May 11, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I voted for Obama & my Tarheels to win it ALL! They both were great picks all around! GO OBAMA & GO HEELS FOREVER!!!!

Posted by: mjuareztyahoocom | May 11, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

jasonburgess! Yes, you tell them, I am tired of hearing powder blue. When it involves the Tar Heels or UNC the color is Carolina Blue!

Posted by: tyrusmanuel | May 11, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Why didn't they give him a #44?

Posted by: something1 | May 11, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

"Republicans of course will find fault in Obama hosting the Tar Heels. Can't wait to see what they'll come up with. Too bad they weren't as crative when running the country."

There will be some negative comments for 2 reasons: Picking the Tar Heels to win it all, and winning NC.

Posted by: colonfr2002 | May 11, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

It's Carolina Blue, not POWDER BLUE!!!!!

Posted by: jasonburgess | May 11, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Republicans of course will find fault in Obama hosting the Tar Heels. Can't wait to see what they'll come up with. Too bad they weren't as crative when running the country.

Posted by: polcat | May 11, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

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