The Georgetown Hoya’s men’s basketball program is one of great prestige, but you wouldn’t know that based on head coach John Thompson III’s tenure with the team.
Though he has enjoyed flashes of success, Thompson’s teams could primarily be defined in the following ways: underwhelming, overrated, dull, underachieving, the list goes on.
Now, as I write this, Georgetown is coming off a season sweep of their Big East rivals, the No. 21 Butler Bulldogs. Earlier tonight, the Hoyas used smothering on-ball defense to hold Butler to 35.3 percent shooting en route to a 60-54 victory. This improved the team’s record to 19-9 (11-6 in Big East) and put them into a tie for second place with Butler in the Big East standings. That said, perhaps being hard on Thompson is premature.
Except it isn’t.
Thompson has been at the helm in Washington D.C. since 2004 and in that time, he has put together a highly respectable record of 246-113 along with one Big East Championship. He led the team to a Final Four in the 2007 tournament, and his commitment to strong on-ball defense and a balanced scoring attack appeared that it would return the program to the glory it enjoyed under his father, John Thompson, Jr.
Unfortunately, the best way to describe Thompson III’s performance in the big dance can be said in one word: mediocre. The trip to the Final Four is the only time Georgetown has made it past the Sweet Sixteen under his watch, and numerous early exits plus difficulty bouncing back in seasons following top players either graduating or heading to the NBA have resulted in an 8-9 career record in the big dance.
Now let’s compare that to his father’s career with the school. From 1972-1999, the senior Thompson put up an astounding record of 596-239, won a national championship in 1984, and was the runner-up in 1982 and 1985. His NCAA tournament record stands at 34-19, with three Final Four appearances.
Thompson Jr. was also an incredible recruiter, having multiple perennial All-Stars like Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson pass through his program. His son has had a great deal of talent on his team’s, but nobody has really made an impact on the NBA level except for centers Greg Monroe and Roy Hibbert.
That all being said, the season sweep of Butler should light a fire underneath John Thompson III and motivate him to step up his coaching efforts on and off the court. He needs to have his players be just as aggressive in scoring as they are on defense. He needs to ramp up his recruiting efforts and not let powerhouse guys like Kentucky’s John Calipari and Kansas’s Bill Self pluck all of the top talent away. He needs to prove that his hiring wasn’t just a legacy move on Georgetown’s part after six failed seasons with Craig Esherick at the helm.
Otherwise, rather than be known as a great coach who led Georgetown back to national prominence, he’ll go down in the record books as someone who was nothing more than a legend’s son who happened to coach at the same school for a time.
*Section Photo credit to Chris Trotman, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit toTommy Gilligan, USA Today Sports