Remarks Congratulating the Villanova University Wildcats on Winning the National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball Championship

April 4, 1985

The President. It's a pleasure to have you all here today. We aren't able to give you a reception as enthusiastic as the one you got up in Philadelphia, but I want you to know that we welcome you with the same heartfelt admiration. And Rollie Massimino, members of the Villanova Wildcats: Well done. You not only represent sportsmen of great talent, you represent the spirit of overcoming great odds that Americans love so much.

You're being called the ``Cinderella Team,'' but I don't see anyone around here who looks like he could fit into a glass slipper. [Laughter] Then, again, it wasn't magic; it was long, hard hours of preparation that enabled you to capture the championship. As Gary McLain said: ``We worked so hard for this; no one in America knows how hard we worked. This is what can happen when you really work hard.''

And, Rollie, you deserve a great deal of credit for that preparation and also for everything you've done to turn a group of tremendous individual players into a team that will go down in the history books.

I know that Monday night's victory was also a bittersweet one for you. A person whose life was so much a part of the history of Villanova basketball passed away that morning. Alex Severance left a long legacy with 60 years at the university.

And there's someone else here who deserves recognition: Jake Niven. And, Jake, I know how much you mean to this team and to all of the students at Villanova. This championship is a tribute to you and to Alex Severance. You've made your mark, and your personal courage has inspired greatness.

And it was greatness. It's almost hard to believe that any team managed to make 78.6 percent of their shots. I was beginning to think it was a hundred percent, the way it looked on television. That's better shooting than I used to do in one of those western movies. [Laughter] You never ran out of ammunition, and you could always do retakes. [Laughter]

But all of you did an extraordinary job. With the eyes of the Nation on you, you didn't buckle under the pressure; your hands stayed steady. One of the longest moments in sport must be during a jump shot, in that fraction of a second when you're suspended in the air, and the crowd is yelling, and you're looking for a small white cylinder that seems to be a mile away, and you have to throw the ball into that tiny net before Pat Ewing comes out of nowhere to block it.

A special word of congratulations to the winner of the tournament's Most Valuable Player Award, Ed Pinckney. And, Ed, I don't know if playing against Ewing is like playing against Tip O'Neill -- [laughter] -- but I understand exactly what it's like to be up against an awesome opponent. So, congratulations.

The game was a testimonial to the enormous talent on both sides. I think you'll all agree with me that Georgetown's team did a great job and that their sportsmanship was in the highest tradition of the game. As one of their team members said, ``We went out with style.'' Well, they did just that. And I know all of us here today have tremendous respect for those fellows as players, as individuals, and as a team.

You've all heard the old saying that ``It isn't whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.'' I think it may be more accurate to say that winning isn't everything, but it sure beats coming in second. [Laughter]

Seriously, this is your day. You know the people of Philadelphia are proud of you, your families are proud of you. And today I just want you to know that all of your countrymen join your family and friends in applauding your achievements.

So, God bless each one of you. And thank you very much for being here.

Coach Massimino. Mr. President, friends, this is really a pleasure. In fact, I'm probably more nervous than when you saw all of us running up and down that bench during the course of that Georgetown game. But even though you're a Hoya fan -- [laughter] -- we would like to make you an honorary Wildcat. [Laughter]

This is certainly a tremendous opportunity for all of us, our families, the players, Jake Niven, whom you brought out, and everybody else associated with the Villanova family. Again, I want to sincerely thank you. This just culminates the total dedication and all the hard work that these young men have done.

Thank you very much.

The President. Thank you, Coach.

Mr. Pinckney. I'd like to present a jacket on behalf of the Villanova coaching staff and players to the President.

The President. Thank you very much. I'm very proud to have that. Thank you. Thank you all very much.

And, Coach, I can't be a fan of anyone. [Laughter] I just think of you all as constituents. [Laughter] But I congratulate all of you, and I do thank you very much for this.

And I understand we interrupted your spring vacation. [Laughter] I'm sorry about that. Perhaps we should have waited.

Mr. Pinckney. It's beautiful to be here.

The President. Well, pleased to have you here.

Note: The President spoke at 10:46 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.