By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
He was student body president as an undergrad at the University of Louisville. And later, as a law student at the University of Kentucky, he was president of the student bar association. So when it comes to college basketball, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell goes all in for the Bluegrass State. "Basketball in all of Kentucky," he tells Whispers, "is a very big deal." But he has a solid fave: U of L. "I follow them both," he says of his college teams. "But you tend to develop more of an allegiance to where you went to undergraduate school, and this has been a particularly sweet year for U of L."
Many lawmakers are generally conversant on their state teams in the Big Dance, but McConnell speaks with the passion and knowledge of a booster. Who else could talk about how Cardinal Coach Rick Pitino has taught his team "to take pride in things like deflections"?
It takes homework to know those kinds of details, and there McConnell is every bit the student. "My favorite read of the week is the Louisville Sports Report," he declares, referring to a website that closely tracks U of L teams. And he's an ESPN junkie. So much so that he dreams of a post-Senate sports analyst job for the network. "That would be pretty exciting," McConnell says. "I think being behind the ESPN desk would be the ultimate fantasy."
Back to the Cardinals. He won't jinx them by predicting a championship, but he has indicated that a final pitting U of L against the North Carolina Tar Heels might be in the offing.
Asked if the team-first strategy Pitino favors has a lesson for his crew, the Senate GOP, McConnell nodded. But unlike Pitino's tight-knit squad, his has some showoffs. "We're in a kind of team sport, too," says McConnell of his short-handed squad. "But we have a lot people who prefer to shoot three-pointers from 35 feet."
Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR
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