Sebelius Explains Hoops ‘Trash Talk’ with Obama Over NCAA Tournament Picks

Mar 19, 2010 1:47pm

ABC News Radio Correspondent Steven Portnoy reports: President Obama’s health secretary, who pressured her boss into choosing her hometown team to win it all at the NCAA tournament this year, admits she “talks trash all the time,” as the president put it in an ESPN interview this week. “Well, I gave him a lot of grief,” Kathleen Sebelius said, of her chiding of then-Sen. Obama for his choice of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels to win the men’s national basketball championship in 2008, over her University of Kansas Jayhawks. “I told him that I didn’t think it had anything to do with his basketball knowledge.  I thought he was pandering to the North Carolina voters, because the primary had not yet occurred,” Sebelius said. “Sure enough, Kansas went right through North Carolina to win the national championship, so I put him on notice that he needed to pick more carefully in the future,”  she explained. Obama told ESPN’s Andy Katz Tuesday that he chose the Jayhawks this year because, “I want her to be happy when she’s working on these important issues here,” namely health care reform. Sebelius, a former Kansas governor who displays several artifacts from the 2008 KU championship in her Washington office, is herself a former college basketball player.  But the avid hoops fanatic, whom President Obama describes as a “maniac when it comes to the Jayhawks” will pull herself from March Madness this weekend as the health care debate reaches its apex. “I will be at the House floor, definitely watching health reform and maybe picking up a little basketball on the side – at least periodically scrolling the scores,” Sebelius revealed in an interview with ABC News Radio in her office Friday. Sebelius noted how both Kansas and Kansas St. face second round matchups on Saturday, allowing her not to miss either Sunflower State team ahead of Sunday’s planned House vote. Like President Obama, Sebelius chose Kentucky to face Kansas in the NCAA championship game.  (The secretary says she filled out her bracket first.)  Asked whether she’d be interested in making a friendly wager with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.), Sebelius told ABC News “I think we need to do that, absolutely.” “You know, I did a lot of bets as governor,” Sebelius said.   “I’m interested usually in some service bets.  The loser used to come to the winner’s home state and serve school breakfast or promote reading.  And we may take on a little childhood obesity, since we’re very involved in that issue. So maybe we can figure out a project to do together.”

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