A little over a year ago, Craig Esherick made national sports headlines with an impassioned tirade on poor officiating. SportsCenter continuously replayed his rant, as he offered to “pay a referee to sit in the post” if it would make them understand the punishment that Mike Sweetney took. Esherick’s rant was one of the defining moments of last season, not just because it provided the Hilltop with national attention, but also because it taught an important lesson about perception.
Esherick kept quiet after Georgetown lost to Duke and Virginia. In both games Sweetney fouled out and had very few calls go his way. It wasn’t until the team defeated West Virginia in overtime that Esherick made his thoughts known. Sweetney dominated that game, scoring 35 points and pulling down 19 rebounds.
Yet it was because the team won that Esherick complained. He realized that whining after a loss made others view him as a sore loser and diminished his point. Lately, I have been waiting for a Hoya victory so I could make my thoughts known on a subject that we have all been thinking about: the fate of Coach Esherick. Amid a five-game losing streak that has included a loss to an undermanned St. John’s team, I fear, however, that I may never get a chance to express my beliefs.
The Georgetown men’s basketball program needs a change. Not because we lost to a St. John’s team with only five scholarship players. Nor is it a reflection of the game against Villanova during which the Hoyas amassed merely five assists, a number that could only make the late Yinka Dare proud. This is why I did not want to write this column after a loss – my opinion is not an overreaction based on an embarrassing loss or even a rough stretch of defeats.
I got spoiled by the Hoyas of my freshman year. What on paper seemed to be a great team, turned out only to be a good team. But Nat Burton and a fortunate second-round matchup against Hampton allowed me to enjoy a trip to the Sweet 16 my first year of college. Since then, the Hoyas have continuously regressed. Sweetney’s ascent to an NBA lottery pick temporarily masked the descent of our program. This year, the annual transfers, unfulfilled potential and lack of depth have been felt and its impact has been ghastly.
Are the Hoyas spiraling into irrelevancy? I’m not sure how else to interpret a program struggling to make the Big East Tournament. Take away the annual allotment of cupcake opponents and Georgetown is nothing more than a .500 team during Esherick’s tenure. Is it all his fault? Certainly not. I don’t presume to know precisely why players keep transferring. If anything, Esherick should be praised for developing Sweetney into the kind of player that can successfully leave school early if he so chooses. But other programs overcome these obstacles on a yearly basis with strong recruiting classes and clutch victories. Our team is headed in the wrong direction and Esherick has shown no signs that he is the man to turn it around.
It is easy to blame Esherick for the demise of a once-proud program. But that is ignoring our own responsibilities as Hoya students and alums. In my four years at Georgetown, I have rarely been to a game at MCI Center where a palpable home-court advantage existed. Against the likes of Notre Dame and Syracuse, their fans often drone out our cheers. Tuesday’s game against Pitt was no different. If we are going to complain about the state of the basketball program, we have a duty to do our part. True fans yell a little louder when the team needs them most. More than ever, that time is now.
This also applies to the “Fire Esherick” chants that have become the closing refrain to nearly every game this season. Don’t think for a second that potential recruits are not influenced by the culture of negativity that permeates our fan base. We need to realize our own role in bringing Georgetown back to prominence.
These chants also disrespect Craig Esherick’s 30 years of service to Georgetown University: first as a student, then as protege to John Thompson and finally as head coach for the past five years. I can only hope that more students show this unfailing dedication after their four years are up. But Esherick’s resume does not express his devotion. Whether it is meeting the heads of Hoya Blue in the Tombs to discuss the upcoming season or providing a wide array of donations to the Senior Auction, this is not a man whose impact is restricted to the basketball court. We aren’t talking about Rick Pitino or some other hired gun who shows no allegiance to anything but winning. Esherick deserves better than derisive chants that minimize what he means to this school. If he wants it, there should always be a job on the Hilltop for this man. We can’t let his background, however, blind us to the fact that head coach should not be that job.
Georgetown basketball has not yet reached irrelevancy. The history of Hoya big men lives on through Mike Sweetney. The Georgetown name should still mean something to potential recruits. But accepting the current state of mediocrity is actively tarnishing that legacy, and the time to act is now.
Jeremy Lundblad is a senior in the College and can be reached at lundbladthehoya.com. SWEARING OFF CURSES appears every Friday.