WASHINGTON – UConn basketball teams are becoming regular visitors at the White House.
But Stefanie Dolson always finds a way to make these photo ops more than routine. She did it last year by putting up bunny ears behind President Barack Obama. This year, it was an accident. Dolson slipped and fell off a riser after presenting the president with a UConn jersey.
Dolson, who has graduated and is playing nearby with the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, quickly regained her balance and didn't appear to hurt herself, but the 6-foot-5 center and the president got a good laugh out of it. Dolson, wearing suede stilettos, curtsied, a perfectly graceful way out.
Obama had acknowledged Dolson's challenge of a dance-off and showed off a few moves – very few.
"Stefanie, I did not forget that you challenged me to a dance-off last year," Obama said. "It is going to happen. It is going to happen. … Don't think that you're going to beat me on that. I also appreciate that you told the world about it after the title game. I have daughters in junior high and high school, and for their sake, I will not be dancing around too much while the cameras are around."
Afterward, Dolson was asked if she was glad Obama remembered her dance challenge.
"Well, it probably helped that I fell," she said.
In his East Room remarks, Obama sprinkled in humor to honor the Huskies' achievements, as members of the national champion men's and women's basketball teams flanked him.
"It is just a remarkable thing what these two programs have accomplished," Obama said. "The women were a perfect 40-0 and won their games by an average of 34 points. There was not a lot of suspense. Now, I did not pick the men's team to win. But neither did anybody else, unless they went to UConn. Tell the truth."
Obama predicted Michigan State would beat Louisville in the national championship game. UConn, of course, beat Kentucky for the title and both teams were missing from Obama's Final Four, which included Arizona and Florida.
Obama lauded men's coach Kevin Ollie for "making sure his players hit the books as hard as they hit the boards. This season, both programs ranked among the nation's best academically."
Before closing, Obama told the women, "I'm so proud of the example you set for my own daughters."
As the players and coaches left the risers, without any more stumbles, Obama whispered to point guard Shabazz Napier, "There is room for you on the Bulls," his favorite team.
"To get to meet President Obama, it is a great experience, and to be here with the girls, it makes it even better," said DeAndre Daniels, who is leaving UConn a year early to enter the NBA draft. "It's an awesome time, a moment I'll always remember."
Said Bria Hartley: "This year is special because the men are here as well, and it's exciting to share this moment with them."
The UConn traveling party, which did not include Niels Giffey, who is at a scouting camp in Italy, landed about 11 a.m. and spent a couple hours touring the White House. Ollie and Geno Auriemma were in the Oval Office last month when they were part of a seminar at the Pentagon, and Auriemma was at another reception for those who perform public service announcements.
"I've been here three times in the last 30 days," Auriemma said, "but everytime you come here, it's like the first time. The minute you walk in the door, even if you've seen everything, seen every portrait, every time you walk in there you do it all again because you always miss something."
Ollie said he wanted his players to take pride from the experience.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be in the presence of the president of the United Stare, but it's real simple – w-o-r-k. When you work, do it the right way, opportunities happen to you and doors open."Copyright © 2015, CT Now