With the search for a new men’s basketball coach well under way, there are other questions that Georgetown needs to answer in order to charter a new course. Georgetown is at a crossroads, and it needs to pick a direction soon.
To start, Georgetown needs to determine whether it wants to be a top Big East contender and remain nationally relevant or focus on being an academic institution with a competitive basketball team. Georgetown returning to the national spotlight would involve landing a blockbuster hire like a Shaka Smart or Mike Brey-type coach. However, recent CBS Sports reports showed that both coaches declined Georgetown’s coaching offers.
Georgetown’s other option of being a strong academic institution with a competitive basketball team points toward the hiring Tommy Amaker, who has proven he can win at an elite academic institution. However, recent recruiting and academic violations tainted Amaker’s program and raises some concern. Georgetown’s coaching decision could be the difference between competing with Villanova for Big East supremacy and hanging in the middle of the pack with the Butlers and Creightons of the league.
Georgetown remains an attractive program with a storied history, committed fan base and plenty of resources to use, especially the brand-new $65 million Thompson Athletic Center. The tools are available to bring this program back to relevancy and back to its place among college basketball’s elite.
The Thompson Center is a double-edged sword. With state-of-the-art technology and luxurious amenities, Georgetown now has a practice facility that levels with other top basketball program’s facilities, and this can be a powerful chip to play during the recruiting trail. However, a life-size statue of John Thompson Jr. stands tall in the lobby. It remains to be seen how Thompson Jr.’s relationship with the university will be affected by the dismissal of his son as head coach.
Besides escaping the shadow of the Thompson name, the next head coach has a tall task ahead of them, both on and off court. Alongside improving Georgetown’s on-court performance, the next coach must improve the communication with the student body, repair broken recruiting ties with local schools in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area and work to maintain connections with notable basketball alumni.
One of the criticisms of Thompson’s time at Georgetown was the disconnect that emerged with the students. Under his direction, the program was rather insular and did little to engage the students, outside of Hoya Midnight Madness. That could be part of the reason for Georgetown’s sharp dip in attendance numbers of the last season. The next coach should focus more on student engagement, whether through weekly emails to students informing them of upcoming games or providing small updates on the team.
Whoever is hired will have a wealth of talent at his disposal, as the DMV area has become one of the nation’s hotbeds for basketball talent. Thompson brought in a good amount of talent during his time at Georgetown, but struggled to develop his players and failed to bring in top DMV recruits. Georgetown struck out on star DMV high school players like Markelle Fultz, Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Chris Lykes. The next coach must work hard to rebuild ties with schools such as DeMatha Catholic and Gonzaga High School to maintain a steady influx of talent into the program.
With former players like Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning and Otto Porter, Georgetown can use its storied history as a valuable recruiting tools for high school players who may look up to them as idols. Its history also serves as a reminder of what Georgetown should strive to be: a national powerhouse that churns out NBA talent. Regardless of Thompson’s role moving forward, the next coach must ensure that the relationships with Georgetown basketball alumni are maintained and developed, keeping Georgetown’s link to its historic past intact.
With the end of the NCAA Tournament approaching, Georgetown fans figure to start getting answers soon, as rumors swirl that Georgetown aims to have the coaching search settled by the Final Four. However, some answers will not be given until later down the line, and it is those answers that will determine the long-term direction of the Georgetown men’s basketball program.
Aidan Curran is a junior in the McDonough School of Business