Speculation began the moment Craig Esherick was fired as headcoach of the floundering, but once proud, Georgetown Universitymen’s basketball program. Who would be the successor? Dukeassistant and Washington native Johnny Dawkins? Former Georgetownlegend Patrick Ewing?
Many thought it would be John Thompson’sson.
Although it carried an air of inevitability,some chose to dismiss the idea. After all, why would this38-year-old man, who grew up in the shadows of a 6-10 revolutionarylegend, enjoying the fruits of recent success as head coach atPrinceton University, come back to his childhood hometown to laborunder the gargantuan expectations of being “Big John’sSon” at “Big John’s School”? Not tomention, the Georgetown program was in a shambles, fresh off theirworse season since the pre-Big John era.
Despite the obvious drawbacks, John ThompsonIII obliged the Hoyas and was named head coach of the men’sbasketball team earlier this week, in a move that Georgetownofficials, alumni and fans hope will resuscitate a program thatonlookers say is slowly dying.
At his press conference, Thompson said he wasglad to be back home and embarked on what may be remembered as hisfirst pep talk as the Hoya’s head coach.
“I grew up on this campus, in McDonoughGym. It’s a part of who I am,” said the brand newcoach. “When I was growing up, there used to be this chant,‘We are Georgetown.’ I love that. When you say that,it’s the institution, it’s the administration,it’s the community, it’s Washington D.C., it’sthe other teams that are part of the athletic program. It’sour program. We are Georgetown.”
Though some cynics will claim nepotism was atwork for this coaching selection, reasonable individuals cannotdeny Thompson’s resume.
His served as an assistant to collegebasketball coaching legend Pete Carril from 1995 to 2000 and tookover as head coach in September 2000. Under his watch, the Tigerswent 68-42 with two NCAA tournament appearances.
So why leave a job where he was comfortable,finally forging his own name and achieving increasing success?
Thompsonsaid he was excited by the challenge of competing in the Big East,which will add five new schools in 2005, including perenniallystrong teams like Louisville and Cincinnati, to form perhaps the most competitive andprestigious basketball conference in the country.
“I’m a basketball coach, and youwant the opportunity to succeed at the highest level and play thegame at the highest level. That was a big part of thisdecision,” Thompson said. “Now that makes life tough,but we’re going to work our behinds off and meet thechallenge.”