Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

JTIII’s Legacy Hinges on 2011-12

Last year when Georgetown was bounced early in the NCAA tournament yet again, I saw a joke by a sportswriter on Twitter.

“Let me rank the John Thompsons:,” it read. “1) John R. Thompson Jr., 2) John R. Thompson Sr., 3) Everyone Else, 4) John R. Thompson III.” Before you even ask, I, of course, retweeted it so all of my 30 followers could chuckle along with me.

Since the new season is slated to tip off in a few weeks, and the pain of losing to Virginia Commonwealth has subsided a little bit, I have decided to reexamine the John Thompson III situation.

When JTIII took the reins of Georgetown basketball in 2004, it seemed predestined to work. His father, the legendary John Thompson Jr., was the coach for the Hoyas’ only national championship in 1984. While this kind of continuity might seem like a good idea on the surface, it is a warning flag when examined deeper.

In many situations, when a child of a successful man ends up taking his old man’s job, allegations of nepotism can ensue. Oftentimes he is given more leeway than an outsider would have because friends of his father — i.e., those in the athletic department — are in control of his contract. When the issue of contract renewal is on the table, it might be difficult for those in power to look at the situation objectively.

It is also interesting to note that while Thompson III inherited a true winner at Princeton before coming to Georgetown, he did not have sustained success during his tenure there. Bill Carmody, the man that coached Princeton before Thompson III, went an astounding 92-25 (0.787) during his time with the Tigers. Thompson took over that program, which Carmody left in great shape, and had a solid but not spectacular record of 68-42 (0.618) from 2000-2004. Furthermore, in the two years that Thompson III’s Princeton teams made the NCAA tournament, they were soundly beaten in the first round. Does that seem like a familiar situation?

After Thompson III made the jump to Georgetown, his successor’s teams at Princeton struggled immensely. One metric sports fans love to use when gauging a coach is to look if that coach’s team had sustained success even after he left his former program.

In Thompson III’s situation, that is not the case and it is another peculiar feature of his coaching career.

From 2005-2009, the Tigers produced only one winning season. This shows that Thompson III won with Carmody’s players, but failed to build a sustainable winning program while at Princeton.

At Georgetown, Thompson III inherited a young but talented team that was recruited entirely by Craig Esherick. The roster that fell into Thomson III’s lap became the foundation for the 2006-2007 team that would eventually make it to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. Since that Final Four appearance, the Hoyas have won only one postseason game — against mighty UMBC — and have been the “Goliath” to Davidson’s, Ohio’s and VCU’s “David.” This is the final interesting point of note in his career.

This article is not — I repeat — is not written as a piece that endorses the firing of JTIII; he is a great teacher of the game and an even better man who genuinely loves Georgetown and his players. On the contrary, I believe that he should be able to finish out his contract, which doesn’t end until 2013. But I am not sold on the fact that he is an elite coach that a school like Georgetown deserves, given our rich basketball history.

My biggest fear is that when the time comes for the athletic department to examine his contract, they give him a free pass because of his father’s influence. While talking to various alumni from Georgetown, I’ve found they also feel that other possibilities should be explored if Thompson III can’t pull it together in the next two years. That pressure needs to be felt by the administration so that they can make the best decision for the school and its basketball future.

Next year in March, after Georgetown has hopefully won a tournament game, maybe JTIII can get the coveted spot of being the third best Thompson by jumping “everyone else.” Of course, I say that tongue-in-cheek, but times are hard up here on the Hilltop. I’m not expecting a miracle of a season, especially with a young team this year. But I do feel that around 20 wins and a trip past the first round of the NCAA tournament is not only reasonable, but necessary for the program’s sake.

Matt Emch is a sophomore in the College. Riding the Pine appears every Friday.

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