Obama gets unlikely praise from Duke's Coach K

Willie Grace | 9/9/2015, 6 a.m.
Krzyzewski is the same man who criticized the administration's strategy regarding ISIS and said in 2009 when Mr. Obama didn't ...
President Barack Obama

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Barack Obama found some words of praise and encouragement from an unlikely source Tuesday -- Duke University men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski -- when the NCAA champion Duke Blue Devils visited the White House.

"On behalf of our Duke community, we want to thank you for serving our country over these last two terms," Krzyzewski told the crowd as he urged them to give the President a standing ovation. "You've been an amazing leader for our country. And it's not just you, but your family and the sacrifices. So thank you very much for your service."

Krzyzewski is the same man who criticized the administration's strategy regarding ISIS and said in 2009 when Mr. Obama didn't choose Duke for the Final Four, "The economy is something he should focus on, probably more than the brackets."

Obama is a major basketball fan -- known to often play and closely follow details of the game and teams. In fact, he knew the various summer activities of the Duke players and asked them about them before the event, according to Krzyzewski, who told reporters he was surprised the President knew some of the details.

At the White House event, which was intended to celebrate Duke's victory, there was some good-natured ribbing over the President's bracket choice this year. He had picked Kentucky to win the NCAA men's basketball tournament and for Duke to lose in the semi-finals.

"My bracket again?" the President joked.

Obama told the crowd he could find some similarities between his popularity and that of the Duke team.

"I can relate to this program," Obama said. "Does well in the classroom. Won twice in the past four years. Know what it's like for people to oppose you no matter what you try to do. When I flip on ESPN and I see a documentary about how people still 'hate' Christian Laettner -- a guy who played for Duke 23 years ago. I realize, well, maybe I don't have it so bad. Or I think this is going to be a long 23 years."

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