Speeches & Floor Statements
Posted on April 9, 2008
Mr. President, I thank the Senator from South Carolina for his courtesy, and the Senator from Arizona as well, and I note the presence on the floor of the Senator from Illinois and the Senator from Connecticut as well. I am sure a great many of the men and women of our Armed Forces, over the last few days, have been watching basketball when they could, and yesterday I expressed my pride in the University of Memphis Tigers, how they got to the finals of the NCAA Men's Division in basketball only to be defeated by a very good Kansas team. Well, today I have even better news. Last night, the University of Tennessee Lady Vols won their eighth NCAA women's basketball championship. They defeated an extraordinarily good Stanford team. The Tennessee team has very good players. The Senator from Illinois, Mr. Durbin, and I talked earlier this morning about Candace Parker from Illinois, from his home State. She may very well be the best woman college basketball player already. She is likely to be the first in the draft today of the WNBA, and this is her last year. She has graduated and has played 3 years. There were four seniors who played. But even though there were extraordinary players, this one has to be about the coach as well. Pat Summitt has won national championships so often, she has made it look easy. She won last year as well as this year. She has won back-to-back championships before. She has won 983 games. This has been remarkably difficult. In her 34 years, she has dominated women's basketball. She has defined it. But she has also helped it with her spaghetti suppers for visiting players, with her encouraging other coaches, with her patience with the news media. She has shown her willingness to change, visiting with Phil Jackson about what offense to put in; to react to disappointment, playing with her superstar, the young woman from Illinois, Candace Parker, who was playing her last two games with a dislocated shoulder. What I like best about the Lady Vols is not their winning streak over the years, it is the example they set. When I was president of the University of Tennessee, which was 15 or so years ago, I would proudly tell everyone that Pat Summitt and her teams have not only won championships, but their players graduated. It was true then and I believe it is true today that every single young woman who has played basketball for Pat Summitt for 4 years has graduated from the University of Tennessee. Pat Summitt not only requires them to go to class, she says: You go to class and you sit in the front row. I want the professors to know you are there. Just a glimpse of Coach Summitt and her young players on national television is the best possible advertisement for the University of Tennessee that I can imagine. If Pat Summitt were the conductor of a symphony, one would say she has mastered the crescendo because she always plays the toughest schedule, but somehow she has learned as a coach to get the most out of her team, to have them playing the best as they get to the NCAA tournament, as they get to the Final Four, and as they get to the championship game, as they have so often. So congratulations to the players, Parker and Hornbuckle, Bobbitt and Anosike and Auguste--those are the young women who played their last game last night. But special congratulations to Pat Summitt, whose remarkable career reminds us of what a mirror of the best of our society can look like.