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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 15, 2000
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

The Rose Garden

6:06 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Please be seated. Good afternoon, and welcome to the Rose Garden. I want to thank the Marine Brass for playing for us and bringing us in, and also thank three members from the Texas delegation for being here: Representative Ken Bentsen, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, and Representative Gene Green, thank you for coming.

I want to welcome the President of the WNBA, Val Ackerman; Coach Chancellor; and Leslie and Nanci Alexander. And I know we have all the team here. Sheryl Swoopes was here in April of 1993 with the Lady Raiders of Texas Tech. How about that? I remember that. (Applause.)

And I want to say a special word of welcome to Loretta Perrot, sister of Kim Perrot. I know we're all glad that she's here with the team today, and I welcome her. (Applause.)

We have a lot of other distinguished athletes and sports figures in the crowd today, as well as some students from Ben Murch Elementary School, the D.C. City Public School champions. Welcome. (Applause.)

Today, we're here to celebrate the team that refuses to lose, the Houston Comets. Three years ago, I had the privilege of speaking with your team after you had won the first championship, the first in WNBA history. In 1998, you took the crown again. And this season, with your victory over the Liberty, you're at the top again, joining the ranks of Bill Russell's Celtics and Michael Jordan's Bulls, becoming only the fourth franchise in the history of basketball to win three titles in a row. I have -- yes, give them another hand. That's good. (Applause.)

Some of you may know, I'm a modestly fanatic basketball fan, and I follow the WNBA every season. And I am delighted by the continuing progress in both the great quality of play and the enthusiasm of the fans, and I think it's only going to get better and better and better.

I want to say, too, I watched the final series. I saw some or all of every one of those games. And I was impressed by the teamwork, as well as the star work. I was pretty impressed that in the last game, Cynthia and Sheryl scored 20 of the first 22 points. I need some people like that on my team from time to time around here.

And I want to say also, though, you don't win three times in a row unless you have a team; unless everybody has a role to play and everybody plays it; and unless people understand that they all do better when they help each other. And that's the sort of spirit that we need more of -- indeed, in more other teams in our country, and in running our communities and our nation.

Great basketball teams are also led by great coaches. Coach Van Chancellor has raised the standard of excellence in women's basketball. And in return, he's been named Coach of the Year three times in a row. I know because of the loss of Kim this has not been an easy year for this team. Adversity breaks some people; it caused you to break records. You should all be proud of that as well.

Your team has taught America a lot, not just about the game at which you excel, but about courage and perseverance, self-confidence and teamwork. It's no wonder so many young girls are now following your lead in taking up basketball. A new generation of women are watching, learning, developing better skills and dreaming loftier dreams.

Congratulations on a well-deserved victory, and thank you for setting an example for all of us to follow.

And now, I'd like to introduce the President of the WNBA, Val Ackerman. Val. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much for the unisex jersey here. (Laughter.) I'll fight with Hillary over the right to wear it.

Thank you again for your example. I did want to say this about your coach: when I first started watching him on television, you know -- when I saw him working with them, and I thought about his roots, I thought, it's kind of nice to have a guy winning in the WNBA who speaks without an accent. (Laughter.) Maybe it's just my ear, but it sounds good to me.

COACH CHANCELLOR: We're from the same area.

THE PRESIDENT: I know. That's what I was meaning, you know. You may get mine back, before I know it. (Laughter.)

And thank you, Cynthia, for your remarks. And I thank all of you. And I will wear this when I work out, and I'll always remember this day. I wish you many more championships. We have a lot of happy moments here in the Rose Garden, but I have a feeling that this is one I'll remember for a good long while.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 6:17 P.M. EDT