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Interview With Chris Fowler, Digger Phelps, and Dick Vitale of ESPN

April 01, 1995

NCAA Basketball Championship

Q. Last year President Clinton was the first Chief Executive to attend the Final Four in person. Right now we are honored; he is definitely the first President to ever join us on "Sports Center," from Little Rock. Mr. President, you're one for two today. The home State Razorbacks get in the championship game. Your good friend is defeated.

The President. Well, I'm very proud of both those teams. I'm of course proud of Arkansas. They played well. And you can never count the Tarheels out; Dean Smith coached a great game there down the stretch. And I'm glad we hung on, and it's a real tribute to those young men and to Coach Richardson.

And of course, I think Eddie Sutton had a great season, and I'm very proud of him. But UCLA has fabulous talent. And you've said it all night, but the point guard, Edney, was terrific at the end. He just took the game over.

Q. Well, Mr. President, you and I talked earlier today on the phone, and we were going through that first-half adjustment, and you said, "We need a big guy inside." Were you happy the second half?

The President. Real happy. You and I were talking—you know, they just had to get the ball to Williamson. They did, and he delivered just the way he's delivered all year. He's a real clutch player, and he played magnificently tonight.

Q. Mr. President, Dick Vitale. You look at the match-up now, UCLA, and you look at the match-up against Arkansas—how do they contain the little guy? You're a coach—should they zone? You told Mr. Jarvis to use the zone earlier this year against Massachusetts. Should they zone?

The President. Yes, I did. I think I'd start in the zone. I think Williamson will do well. I think that Thurman will do well. And I think that we've got enough skill, enough talent to beat them. But boy, they're deep, they're fast, and they're good. And we're going to have to play great defense to win that game. That's why they really got back in this game, I think.

Q. Mr. President, what has it been like as an Arkansas fan in this tournament? Game after game they've survived. They were dead against Syracuse before the timeout was called by Lawrence Moten. The average margin of victory, just four points. Has it been tough as a fan?

The President. It's been tough as a fan, but you know, every team this team has played has had their best game of the year against them. And it's been hard for them to get up. But the last two games they've been—they've been a different team in the second half of both the last two games. They've played like national champions, and they're going back to the final, and they deserve it. It's going to be a great, great game, I think.

Q. Well, Mr. President, now that you've gone through the weekend—and a little golf, a little basketball—do you have the urge to sneak out to Seattle Monday night?

The President. Oh, I do, but wherever I am, I'm going to be there cheering for them. And I'm really proud of them, and I'm excited. The fans will see a great game. UCLA's got a terrific team, and this will be a very, very exciting final, I predict.

Q. Mr. President, you better come out here, because word has it that John Wooden may be out here to give them a little bit of an edge. They need you.

The President. Well, I'm nowhere near in his class, but I'll be screaming my lungs out wherever.

Q. Thank you very much for joining us.

The President. Thank you.

NOTE: The interview began at 9:21 p.m. The President spoke by satellite from Doe's Eat Place in Little Rock, AR. In his remarks, he referred to University of Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson and players Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman; Oklahoma State University coach Eddie Sutton; University of California-Los Angeles player Tyus Edney and former coach John Wooden; George Washington University coach Mike Jarvis; and Syracuse University player Lawrence Moten. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this interview.

William J. Clinton, Interview With Chris Fowler, Digger Phelps, and Dick Vitale of ESPN Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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