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

A Thompson Reigns Again

Dan Gelfand/The Hoya University Prsident John J. DeGioia announces John Thompson III as the new men’s basketball head coach in Riggs Library on Tuesday. Thompson took Princeton to the NCAA tournament twice.

John Thompson III was announced as the head coach of the Georgetown men’s basketball team by University President John J. DeGioia at a press conference Tuesday.

Former Princeton Head Coach Thompson, son of legendary Head Coach Emeritus John Thompson, is following his lineage back to the Hilltop just five years after his father stepped down and more than a month after Craig Esherick (GSB ’78, LAW ’82) was fired.

“John has all the qualifications that we were looking for in a head coach – he’s had head coaching success at a Division I university academically similar to Georgetown,” DeGioia said. “He has outstanding leadership and communication skills and has a deep commitment to the Georgetown tradition of academic excellence, integrity in competition and basketball success.”

At the press conference in Riggs Library, Thompson stood in front of his father and spoke about the unusual position he has inherited.

“I am John Thompson’s son. I’ve been John Thompson’s son for 38 years. And I’m pretty comfortable being John Thompson’s son,” he said provoking laughter from the crowd. “No one’s going to put more pressure on me than myself. At Princeton I was John Thompson’s son, and that’s who I am. So if you guys can deal with that, I think I’ll be OK.”

Thompson is charged with the task of righting a program that has fallen to the bottom of the Big East. Esherick led the Hoyas to a 13-15 record this season, which ended without an invitation to a postseason tournament for the first time in 27 years.

Thompson, who graduated from Princeton in 1988, took over in 2000 and led the Tigers to three Ivy League titles and two NCAA tournament berths in four years as head coach. They lost to Texas in the first round this year. His overall record was 68-42.

While the rather large shadow of the elder Thompson may have faded in recent years as the program fell further and further from the success he built, the hiring of Thompson cannot help but call to mind those years. He inherits his father’s legacy of building Georgetown from a small, regional program into the 1984 national champions.

“I grew up on this campus, I grew up in McDonough gym,” Thompson said. “It’s a part of who I am in as much as Princeton is. But growing up . [there] was a chant that was, `We are Georgetown’ . I love it. Because it’s `We are Georgetown.’ And when you say that, it’s the institution, it’s the administration, it’s the community, it’s Washington, D.C., it’s the other teams, the other members of the athletic department, it’s our program. And that’s what we have, a program, not a team. We are Georgetown. And a few people have forgotten that we’re Georgetown, and we’re going to work our tails off to remind them.”

Next year, Thompson will lead a team that is losing its leading scorer, guard Gerald Riley, and starting center, Courtland Freeman, to graduation. He also will play in a league that will likely become the toughest in college basketball with the addition of five new teams in 2005.

The returning members of team attended the press conference and sat in the front row along with recruit Roy Hibbert Jr., who attends Georgetown Prep. Thompson met with the team briefly just before the conference.

“I came here based on tradition,” sophomore forward Brandon Bowman said after the conference. “I’m really looking forward to being like what I see on TV, what I grew up watching, hard core, fast-paced, defense, all that . I have no words, I’m just so excited.”

Both Bowman and sophomore guard Ashanti Cook described a feeling of relief after the long weeks that went by without any word on who would be the coach.

“During that time, the players were kind of lost, like should we go down to the gym and work out?” Cook said. “But a lot of the guys were like, yeah, we still have to do our workouts, we still have to get better even though we don’t have a coach. But now that we have a coach, we feel like we have a sense of direction.”

Thompson identified the challenge of coaching this team as possibly the biggest factor that made him choose to leave Princeton.

“I was pretty impressed with the way he carried himself when he met with us,” Bowman said. “He knows everything, he has all the formulas of the winning coach, and [knows how] to make his team play for him. I think that’s what we need the most, someone that we’re going to play for hard every game, and that’s what we’re getting.”

When asked to compare his coaching style to his father’s, Thompson spoke of the two great influences in his life: his father and legendary Princeton coach Pete Carril.

“It’s one of those things where you just coach and you go with your gut, go with your instincts,” Thompson said. “Maybe you’ll see a little bit of Pops in there, and maybe you’ll see a little bit of Coach [Carril]. I know that one thing you will see is this program, as I said earlier, is built on hard work.”

Thompson went to Gonzaga College High School in Washington and was named as a Washington Post All-Met, a tribute awarded to exceptional high school athletes, before attending Princeton. As a forward, he drew praise as an excellent passer and still ranks third on the school’s all-time assists records with 358. He was the team’s co-captain his senior year.

He graduated in 1988 and went to work for The Scoreboard, a sports marketing firm. He then went back to his alma mater as an assistant for five years before taking over for Bill Carmody, who left for Northwestern.

The coaching search at Georgetown was led by James Higgins (GSB ’70), a member of the Board of Trustees and a former captain of the basketball team, and Athletic Director Emeritus Frank Rienzo.

University President John J. DeGioia said Georgetown would undertake a national search immediately after Esherick’s firing on March 16. It was never confirmed, however, that several other rumored candidates, including Duke Assistant Coach Johnny Dawkins, Penn Head Coach Fran Dunphy and Georgetown Assistant Coach Jaren Jackson, were interviewed, and Jackson and Dunphy both told THE HOYA they had not spoken to Higgins.

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