President Obama Honors Villanova Wildcats at White House

Thirty-one years ago, well before any of its current players were born, the 1985 Villanova men’s basketball team visited the White House at the invitation of President Ronald Reagan to celebrate its epic win over the heavily favored Georgetown Hoyas for the NCAA championship. On Tuesday , May 31, 2016, the 2015-16 edition of the championship Villanova Wildcats returned to the White House, this time at the invitation of President Barack Obama (well-known for his avid interest in basketball) to salute their momentous and dramatic win over the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. The victory earned Villanova its second NCAA men’s basketball national championship.

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President Obama first complimented Head Coach Jay Wright, whom he referred to as,”the best dressed coach in college basketball”, and  “the George Clooney of coaches”, for guiding the Wildcats to the NCAA championship. The President then praised the players for their stellar play throughout the NCAA tournament. President Obama confided to the gathering in the East Room of the White House that Villanova was his “bracket buster”, but nevertheless, he admired their attitude and performance.

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The President singled out several of the players for their outstanding play, including Daniel Ochefu, a/k/a, “The Chef”, Kris Jenkins,a/k/a, “Big Smooth” who hit the game winning shot against UNC, Josh Hart, the team’s leading scorer during the season, whom the President noted attended the same high school that his daughters currently attend (Sidwell Friends School), and Ryan Arcidiacono, the team captain for four years, whose name the President mispronounced.

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To conclude the White House ceremony, after thanking President Obama and his staff for their hospitality, Coach Wright and the team, on behalf of Villanova University, presented the 44th President with two number 44 Villanova team jerseys, one blue, one white, which the team wore earlier in the season when it played Oklahoma University in Pearl Harbor.

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After the ceremony, Coach Wright told the press that the visit to the White House was a memorable experience for the entire Villanova family, a day that will endure in the memory of all the members of Nova Nation. Arcidiacono joked that it isn’t every day you go to the White House and have the President mispronounce your name, and when asked if he had purchased his American Flag bow-tie just for the occasion, Josh Hart replied that he already had it in his arsenal, thinking that he might need it some day.

[Photo credit: D. Jacob Miller Photography]

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