100 YEARS OF GEORGETOWN BASKETBALL
Georgetown’s two Coach Thompsons have combined for 30 years of Hoya hoops success
John Thompson Jr., John Thompson III. Patrick Ewing, Patrick Ewing Jr. Things seem to be coming full circle for the Georgetown basketball program these days. (Well maybe not full circle, the program did have more than 60 years of history before Coach Thompson Jr. and the elder Ewing roamed the Washington hardwood). But 22 years after the storied program won its sole NCAA title, there are marked similarities on campus.
For starters, John Thompson III, going into his third campaign, mans the bench his father occupied for 27 seasons. Plus, Patrick Ewing Jr. will don number 33 for the Hoyas this season. And expectations and anticipation, as they were in the program’s heyday, are high.
From legendary coach Elmer Ripley, Allen Iverson, future NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue (the schools second leading rebounder), and Alonzo Mourning, to a new class of stars like Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green, the Hoyas have maintained an undying basketball tradition.
As Georgetown celebrates 100 years of men’s hoops, Washington Life takes a look back — and forward — at the program’s highlights with a Q & A session featuring both Coach Thompsons, Georgetown University President Jack DeGioia and alum superfan Ted Leonsis.
TED LEONSIS: Tonight we wanted to bring everyone together to kick off the celebration of 100 years of Georgetown University men’s basketball. With that I’d like to introduce the president of Georgetown University, Jack DeGoia.
JACK DEGIOIA: I’m going to start with the first coach of the two up here, John Thompson Jr. In the early 1970s you made a decision to come to Georgetown…what were you thinking?
JOHN THOMPSON JR.: There was a classmate of mine, Maurice Lancaster, who was working in the admissions office and he had to convince me that the university would hire me; because when I heard the position was open I told them Georgetown would never hire an African-American. Anyway, he talked me into doing it and its history.
The thing I appreciate most about Georgetown was not just that they hired an African-American at the time when [that] was not an easy thing, but that they permitted me to be me. They didn’t try to make me a white man, they let me be proud of being an African-American and express views I wanted to express. And that’s what educational institutions do.
Coach John Thompson Jr. preps a Georgetown team at game time in the 1970’s
JACK DEGIOIA: There’s a comment attributed to Father Henley regarding his expectations for the program…
JOHN THOMPSON JR.: Father Henley was the greatest person in the world because he said to me, ‘I want you to go to the NIT periodically.’
JACK DEGIOIA: What was it like growing up with your dad coaching Georgetown basketball?
JOHN THOMPSON III: First, when I got the job my president didn’t tell me to just go to the NIT every once and again. That’s my connection to that funny little story. I answer that question a lot — what it’s like being John Thompson’s son and growing up around Georgetown basketball. But it’s really no point of reference. It’s your life, what you’re doing. That’s who you are.
JACK DEGIOIA: In 1979 Georgetown was one of the founding members of the Big East. How important was that to the development of the program?
JOHN THOMPSON JR.: I was arrogant enough to think that it was important for the Big East to see that we got into it. We went into the league and the league put us in a whole different world.
Coach John Thompson III eyes the action during last year’s NCAA Sweet 16 season.
JACK DEGIOIA: There were seven teams when the league started; now there are 16. What’s it like competing in the current Big East, John?
JOHN THOMPSON III: It’s the same, you hate them all. Now there’s just more teams to dislike. From a competitive standpoint, the league is terrific. In Big East basketball there are no poor little sisters. That’s terrific, but once we start doing scouting reports I wish we had a couple of cupcakes.
JACK DEGIOIA: Two years in, any surprises from what you expected? JOHN THOMPSON III: No, not really. We want to improve, we’re taking baby steps and it’s a process. Georgetown Basketball has evolved and re-evolved. We’re in the midst of a re-evolution and we want to keep plugging.
TED LEONSIS: John [Thompson, Jr.], I’d like to know how you felt at the Duke game last year (Georgetown beat then No. 1 Duke 87-84)?
JOHN THOMPSON JR.: I felt great, that’s my child. I was so proud of him. I would have been proud of him had he not won that game because I think he’s a special person.
JACK DEGIOIA: Give us your assessment, how do you look at this season?
JOHN THOMPSON III: We have 27 challenging games. I tell our guys that it’s about us. Who we play, that’s irrelevant.
We go into the gym, we close the door, and we try to improve. We have a group of guys that has worked extremely hard to prepare for the season. I think our league, once again, is terrific.
TED LEONSIS: So are we going to be any good this year? JOHN THOMPSON III: We’ll see. We’ll be OK.