SLIDESHOW: Cardinals fans, teams celebrate at KFC Yum! Center - WDRB 41 Louisville News

SLIDESHOW: Cardinals fans, teams celebrate at KFC Yum! Center

Lou. Mayor Greg Fisher and Gov. Steve Beshear at U of L suite during Cardinals' victory celebration. Photo from governor's office. Lou. Mayor Greg Fisher and Gov. Steve Beshear at U of L suite during Cardinals' victory celebration. Photo from governor's office.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Louisville Cardinals men are national champions for the third time, and the U of L women made it all the way to the championship game.

Now thousands of people, just about a full house, gathered to celebrate at the KFC Yum Center.

U of L athletics director Tom Jurich proudly told the crowd that UConn was a worthy opponent of the U of L women's basketball team -- but despite the NCAA championship loss to that team, the U of L ladies, "will catch them and surpass them. I will promise you that."

Of the U of L men's basketball team, he cited the leadership of Coach Rick Pitino in bringing the Comeback Cards back from behind to win the NCAA semi-final against Wichita State.

"He didn't waver a bit," Jurich said. "He pulled the team together…and the rest is history."

"This is the best college sports town in America," he added. "Without a doubt, we've got the two finest basketball coaches in America."

"We have a very unique thing at the University of Louisville. We're a family," he said.

U of L men's basketball player Luke Hancock thanked the fans.

"I've been here two years, and all we've known is Louisville and Final Fours," he said.

Peyton Siva, a senior guard with the men's basketball team thanked the fans for their "love, care and support," as well as "Coach P." [Pitino]

"He's been a great mentor to me," Siva said. "He's helped me out these four years."

He pointed to his teammates, calling them "my brothers and my family over here," and gave a special shout-out to the women's basketball team.

One of the most visible members of the men's team, Kevin Ware, addressed a roaring crowd.

"Honestly, without you guys, we wouldn't be in the position we are here," he told the fans.

Ware broke his leg in the Duke victory that put Louisville into the Final Four.

Jeff Walz, the coach of the women's basketball team praised the men's team for its win.

"We were following them and cheering them on as loud as we could Monday night, and it was quite a ball game to watch," he said.

He added that he was proud of his own team, and what they accomplished Tuesday night.

"But that's not our final goal," he said. "Our final goal is to take one more step and being a national champion -- and that's what we plan on doing."

Pitino took the stage near the end of the celebration and recounted a visit to bar on Bourbon Street in New Orleans Tuesday night.

"I went to this place called the Beach Bar," he said. "And all of a sudden, our game was on the television…and I watched and I was really blown away for the first time by the impact of how good our team was. I didn't think it was humanly possible for a young man to play with the… desire of Peyton Siva. I didn't think it was humanly possible."

"Here I am a 60-year-old man crying in a bar on Bourbon Street," he laughed. "It was just awesome."

Men's and women's winning trophies, including the national championship trophy, graced a stage at the downtown arena.

U of L announced the ceremony and its details late on Tuesday.  It took the place of a "ticker-tape parade" Mayor Greg Fischer had described in post-game phone calls with reporters Monday night.

Fischer and Gov. Steve Beshear watched the ceremony from U of L president James Ramsey's box at the arena, their spokespeople said.

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