December 17th, 2008
06:28 PM ET
12 years ago

Running the court with Obama

Obama’s cabinet will be filled with advisors who share his love of the game.

Obama’s cabinet will be filled with advisors who share his love of the game.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – When President-elect Barack Obama announced Arne Duncan as his choice to be Education secretary this week, he referenced Duncan’s career as a professional basketball player in Australia.

“I think we are putting together the best basketball-playing cabinet in American history,” Obama said.

And he might be right.

The president-elect is surrounding himself with advisors who might come from different backgrounds but share a common bond: basketball. This should not be much of a surprise seeing it is well known that Obama enjoys picking up a basketball and running the court.

So far, roughly a quarter of Obama’s cabinet choices have a history in the sport:

–Retired Marine Gen. James Jones, Obama’s designee for national security adviser, played for Georgetown University;
–Dr. Susan Rice, Obama’s choice for U.N. Ambassador played in high school;
–Eric Holder, Obama’s designee for attorney general, played in high school;
–And, of course, Duncan played professionally in Australia

Duncan is also part of a small group of players who have been running the floor with Obama for years. That group includes: Dr. Eric Whitaker of the University of Chicago Medical Center; John W. Rogers, Jr.; a Chicago investment portfolio manager; and Reggie Love, a member of Obama’s staff who is the president-elect’s personal aide otherwise known as a “body man” in political terms.

With so many potential stars on his team, will Obama have any trouble coaching his coterie of players?

Maybe it’s best to ask an expert, like Georgetown coach John Thompson III.

Thompson said that when you are putting together a team your goal is to try “to put talented people around you and then let them do their job.”

The Georgetown coach emphasized that while there was no comparison between his job coaching college players and Obama’s task as president, there are some small similarities in that you are always looking to assemble people of different strengths and varied abilities and talents.

“Once you bring the pieces together, it’s a matter of making it clear that there’s a common goal we’re trying to achieve,” Thompson said.

For Obama, he faces the challenge of being the head coach and the star, and ultimately it is the job of his cabinet to support him and his policies rather than try to be star players themselves.

“At the end of the day, he is our leader,” said Thompson.

Instead of the almost-cliqued “team of rivals” concept that Obama himself frequently references, Thompson suggested another way of thinking about the team Obama is pulling together.

“It’s more like he’s putting together his assistant coaches and his staff, not necessarily his players,” Thompson said.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. dan

    This is news? Seriously? I feel like there MUST be something better to put on this page then this...come on cnn.

    December 17, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  2. John Galt in Colorado

    Boy that is the best qualification for a cabinet that I have ever heard of. Great job PEBO! All your picks are a slam dunk! When we get invaded by Communists, Muslims, Hispanics, and anyone else who is going to take advantage of a weaker America, then you guys can lace em' up and decide the best way to divide the country.


    December 17, 2008 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  3. Mark, B'ham., Al.

    I wonder if they are "Thugs" like alot of those who are playing in the NBA, College and even High School basketball these days? I still like the rporters question to Obama that if he had such great confidence in Mr. Duncan why did he not send his daughters to Chicago Public Schools?

    December 17, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  4. once upon a horse

    I have a bad feeling that in the long run the sterotype of basketball and African-Americans will be used by comics and foils from the right throughout Obama's term. I can hear them tuning up right now as if they really need any more ammo against him.

    December 17, 2008 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  5. obamatine

    I want to play ball with Obama!

    December 17, 2008 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  6. AZ

    Janet Napolitano has been a guest coach for ASU and U of A Women's Basketball teams. If you're gonna post a lame story CNN, at least figure it out!

    December 17, 2008 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  7. G.R.I.T.S - Girl Raised in the South

    This reminds me of Butch Karp, the fictitious D.A. in a series of books by Robert Tanenbaum. He builds a great prosecutorial team based on a background in basketball specifically and sports in general. He has solid reasons for this, including the ability to work as a team for the common good. I have always found the reasons Karp gives to be compelling and believe they would certainly apply here.

    December 17, 2008 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  8. d.a.v.i.d.

    b-ballers!!! fight the power!!!

    December 17, 2008 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  9. Mickey-Texas

    Sounds like he'll have one of the most physically fit cabinets in US history!

    December 17, 2008 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  10. ASIA


    December 17, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  11. Juan Grain

    And they will play against Palin, McCain, Christ, Gindall and Rice.

    December 17, 2008 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  12. Lyndon from CA

    Obama might be planning to run the court, but it seems that it is his defense that is irritating members of the elite liberal media. See his perceived "stone walling "and "cutting reporters' questions short" as CNN's Cambell Brown would have you believe.

    December 17, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  13. Lucy, PA

    Pick another pastor, other than Rick Warren.

    December 17, 2008 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  14. Sue

    Hillary plays basketball? Who knew?

    December 17, 2008 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  15. Larry

    I hope they don't foul out.

    December 17, 2008 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  16. Donna

    I think this will be good for diffusing "stress" in the administration...people think better when their heads are clear and they have released any tension...having fellow basketball players gives them a common bond and when there is a disagreement they can take it to the court...

    Whatever works to keep Obama sane and healthy...I could care less if it stirs up any "stereotype" that people may have of AAs...he has already proven that he has what it takes for the job...

    December 17, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  17. clarity

    I love the human interest angle of this story. People are multi-faceted and have many talents. Obama is a new age renaissance man. He is intelligent and has great kinesthetic physical awareness. His staff is well rounded, athletic, global minded....

    There is a generational changing of the guard underway in the world. The air is crisp and the future is bright!

    December 17, 2008 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  18. Milhouse van Houten

    Surely he can't be putting his team in alignment with those that play in the NBA.There happens to be no more of a thug persona in sports than those who play a game that you need not watch until the final thirty seconds.Even then it takes somewhere around a half hour to complete.Basketball may be fine for some leisure exercise but to put it into the realm of real sport is an injustice.

    December 17, 2008 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |