A near-capacity crowd at the KFC Yum! Center roared its approval, touching off a celebration of the men’s title and the women’s national runner-up finish in this week’s NCAA basketball championship.

Fans watched video presentations and cheered as players and coaches thanked them for their support during their runs to the title game.

The players shared a common message, thanking the fans for their support and promising even better days ahead.

Senior Monique Reid, a Fern Creek High School grad, said of her hometown, “I love this city. All of this is for you guys.”

The coaches also addressed the crowd. Jeff Walz said his women’s team was pleased with their success and the support they received. But he added that they aren’t satisfied being national runners-up.

“Our goal is to take one more step and be a national champion,” he said.

After applauding the women’s team for pulling off “the greatest upset in the history of college basketball” during their Sweet 16 game against top-ranked Baylor, Pitino praised his own team, singling out championship game performances by Peyton Siva and Chane Behanan.

“We play for our university, our city and our fans,” he said.

Swimmer Joao De Luca, who won the 200-meter freestyle national championship in March, also was introduced and spoke to the crowd.

Perhaps the loudest cheers of the night came when officials unveiled the national champion and national runner-up banners that will be raised to the arena rafters next fall.

Pitino said all the players and coaches are honored to be part of “the finest tradition in all of college basketball.”

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John Drees
John Drees is a 32-year veteran in the Office of Communications and Marketing. As interim senior associate vice president/director of campus communication, he works closely with the president, provost and other senior administrators, oversees the Office of Communications and Marketing, including media relations, marketing, broadcast, social media, internal communication, crisis communication, visitor services and special events and activities. A former sports editor for the Voice Newspapers, he was a regular contributor to a variety of publications, including the Kentucky Sports Report and the Courier-Journal. A poor but enthusiastic golfer, he is an avid Cardinal sports fan. He also loves the Detroit Lions, so pity him.