WASHINGTON -- A 'cool' President Reagan greeted the NBA champion Boston Celtics in the steaming Rose Garden Wednesday, flubbing some of his basketball history and the names of some Celtics greats in the process.
'From the Boston Garden to the Rose Garden, it's been quite a year for the Celtics, the team Boston loves and all the world admires,' Reagan said of the team that won its 15th NBA championship Tuesday night, 111-102 over the Lakers of Los Angeles, Reagan's home town.
Reagan, in a beige suit amid the sweltering players and reporters standing in 92-degree heat and 60 percent humidity, said the Celtics had won all seven championship rounds that had gone seven games. That was true.
'You threw yourselves into that final battle with all the pride and determination and heart that has made you a legend in basketball history,' he said.
Likening them to the Celtic warriors of ancient Ireland, another reminder of the ancestral roots he found last week in a trip to the Emerald Isle, Reagan recited an honor roll of 'some of the greatest heroes in basketball history: Cousy, Sharman, Ramsey, Russell, Sam and K.C. Jones, 'Heinshone, Havizlak, Covens' and White.'
He mispronounced the names of Celtics greats Tommy Heinsohn, John Havlicek and Dave Cowens.
Reagan also said he had been told that in the eight times Boston won the championship since 1959, they beat the Lakers.
The record books show, however, that while Boston did beat the Lakers eight times since 1959, it also beat five other teams, one of them twice, for the title.
'Aren't you afraid you might be getting into a rut?' he joked.
'In celebrating your championship, we see how America can be a nation of champions, as well,' Reagan said.
Three of the most prominent Celtics, series Most Valuable Player Larry Bird, forward Cedric Maxwell and center Robert Parish, did not attend the ceremony.
Team president and general manager Red Auerbach gave Reagan a green Celtics warmup jacket, and guard Dennis Johnson, designated to present Reagan with an autographed basketball, stepped to the microphone and said, 'Before I present this ball, I'd like to ask the president how do you stand out here and don't sweat?' provoking a gale of laughter.
Reagan didn't answer, but an unidentified voice from the Celtics lined up on either side yelled, 'The president is cool.'
Coach K.C. Jones thanked Reagan and told him, 'I did it all myself - with a little help from Larry Bird.'
Reagan's only reply was, 'If I was as smart as I was supposed to be in this job, I would have come out here and stood on a box.'
As he shook hands with each player, Danny Ainge asked him, 'Can we get our playoff money tax-free?' The response, if any, was inaudible amidst the laughter.