With the news of John Thompson III’s firing, the next step in bringing Georgetown men’s basketball back to prominence is hiring his successor. While the NCAA Tournament is still going, the college head coach carousel is well underway among teams not playing for the championship.
Indiana University recently announced the hiring of Dayton University’s Archie Miller as its new head coach, replacing the fired Tom Crean. With the Indiana job filled, the Georgetown position is one of the most attractive options open right now, leaving the Georgetown administration plenty of options to choose from.
Hoya fans remember Smart as the head coach of the Virginia Commonwealth University team that upset Georgetown in the opening round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament as the No. 11 seed. Since then, Smart has moved on to Texas, where he just finished his second season, finishing with a record of 11-22 (4-14 Big 12), good for last place in the Big 12 this season.
Smart’s teams are known for their “Havoc” defensive system, which emphasizes constant full-court pressure and generating turnovers. VCU ranked in the top-25 in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive rating in three of Smart’s last four seasons with the Rams. It’s a big part of why Smart’s VCU teams were such a tough out in the NCAA Tournament year in and year out, and why the program elevated to a national contender under Smart’s direction.
Besides recently being a coach at a DMV school, Smart represents a drastic departure from the slow style of play employed by Thompson. This type of hire could be enough to convince four-star point guard recruit Tremont Waters to not back out of his National Letter of Intent to Georgetown.
It remains to be seen whether Smart would want to leave Texas so soon. He remains under contract through 2023 and is reportedly making $3 million per year, which comes in just under the reported $3.6 million Thompson III received in 2014. According to CasualHoya.com, two UT sources have said that Smart is not interested in leaving Texas at this point, so this may be a moot point.
On paper, Brey seems like a great fit for Georgetown. Coming from a similar, elite academic institution at Notre Dame, Brey has had a lot of success recently, with Notre Dame reaching the ACC Tournament final and getting a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament this season.
Brey is a Washington, D.C. native, attending high school at DeMatha Catholic in Maryland and graduating from The George Washington University. To add to the intrigue, Brey’s top assistant coach, Anthony Solomon, left his staff for Georgetown last season.
Brey carries an exceptional coaching pedigree with him, coming from the Mike Krzyzewski coaching tree, having been an assistant coach for him from 1987-1995. His leaving the established program at Notre Dame, a similar academic institution in a superior basketball conference, for a diminished Georgetown basketball program that is projected to experience a significant amount of upheaval in the short term is tough to see.
However, Notre Dame has recently been non-committal on building a practice facility for the basketball team, while Georgetown just built the state-of-the-art, $65 million Thompson Athletic Center. In 2016, Brey netted $1.7 million, so Georgetown may be able to entice the D.C. native to come home with a hefty salary raise.
Tommy Amaker was one of the first names that popped up following Thompson’s firing. The Falls Church native is currently the head coach at Harvard University, with previous stops at Michigan and Seton Hall. Amaker started out as a point guard at Duke University, coached by Mike Krzyzewski, and then joined Coach K’s staff as a graduate assistant after he graduated.
Like Thompson did before he came to Georgetown, Amaker has experienced success at an Ivy League school and has shown he can recruit well. Amaker is represented by David Falk, who is also the agent for the Thompsons, along with several notable Georgetown alumni in the NBA.
One mark against Amaker is the minor recruiting violations that Harvard has committed during Amaker’s tenure. In the summer of 2010, the NCAA ruled that Amaker committed recruiting violations in 2008, resulting in NCAA-mandated recruiting restrictions, the university’s first NCAA penalty of the men’s basketball program.
Recruiting slip-ups aside, Amaker has brought a level of success to Harvard basketball that the program has never seen before. The 2012-13 team gave Harvard its first NCAA tournament victory and the 2013-14 team posted a record 27 wins.
Harvard has taken a step back in recent years due to a university-wide cheating scandal that saw two senior co-captains leave the team before the 2012-13 season. For a university that emphasizes running a clean program, it would be interesting to see if Georgetown would hire a coach who has a history of academic and recruiting violations.
During a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, Patrick Ewing stated his support for Thompson, but when asked if he would consider taking the job if Thompson leaves, he kept an open mind.
“If they call, if something happens and they call, I would listen, but my goal is to be a head coach in the NBA. But I would definitely listen to what they have to say,” Ewing said.
For some, hiring Patrick Ewing — arguably the greatest player in Georgetown basketball history — would signify a return to the glory days. For others, bringing Ewing would mean that Georgetown is not ready to fully depart from the Thompson family era.
Hiring Ewing would bring a lot more questions than answers. Ewing has been an NBA assistant coach for 15 years and has no college coaching experience. He has stated his desire to be an NBA coach several times, and has interviewed for multiple NBA head coaching vacancies in recent years.
It could very well be that Georgetown decides to hire Ewing as a way to maintain the connection with the Thompson family, and as a way to excite the fans by bringing back an all-time great Georgetown player to help resurrect the program that he helped bring to national prominence. However, hiring Ewing as head coach of Georgetown basketball could be a risk given Ewing’s dreams of being an NBA coach. Georgetown should think very carefully before bringing back its prodigal son to help put Georgetown back atop the Big East and into the national conversation.
Aidan Curran is a junior in the McDonough School of Business.