By Peter Gleason
Yesterday’s 81-55 Villanova romp over Georgetown should end the Hoya coaching career of John Thompson 3rd (above).
But it won’t because his legendary father, John Thompson Jr., holds a place in school culture that makes the son untouchable.
Barring a miracle Big East tournament run, the Hoyas (14-17) will finish with their second straight losing season. They have lost five games in a row. They posted a 5-13 record in the diminished Big East.
They couldn’t keep pace with No. 2 Villanova — historically their peer as a dominant program defying the football-powered culture of college athletics.
Villanova is the reigning national champion led by Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, two stars from the D.C. area. And Georgetown is lost, trapped between what it used to be and what it believes it can be now, watching the son of the man who built its empire struggle, creating the most cumbersome situation in college basketball.
When Thompson was asked a standard question about the future of the program and the potential for distractions after yesterday’s game, a team spokesman declared before the coach could answer: “Leave it to game-related questions.” And that was the end of a postgame media session that lasted about four minutes.
Thompson will never be Jay Wright when it comes to media friendliness, but he is a polite, articulate 50-year-old gentleman who can handle a few big-picture questions. He could’ve just swatted them away, like he has some queries this season, favoring to save state-of-the-program evaluations for the offseason. Or maybe he would’ve offered a few words of introspection and made himself more human in this debate. Instead, Georgetown chose to cast itself as closed and aloof.
He won’t be fired after this season ends. That’s just reality.
And it’s unfair to say his job security is tied solely to the legend of John Thompson Jr.
Before this two-year slide, the son made eight NCAA tournament appearances in his first 11 seasons. He has been to a Final Four, albeit 10 years ago. He has eight 20-win seasons. The early tournament exits are indefensible, as is the recent regression in recruiting and the fact that Georgetown still doesn’t find the best talent to fit its style of play. But in most cases, if a college coach has had a decade of success and done so with integrity, the coach, regardless of his last name, should have accumulated the equity to survive two down seasons.
After that, all bets are off, and Thompson III should be entering that phase. The problem is the perception that, because of his father, the coach will have an infinitely long rope.
So, right now, this is a stalemate of frustrated factions. There are plenty of fans preaching patience, though they don’t chant during games. But it would be unwise to label the “Fire Thompson” crowd as just impatient young people who forgot the program began long before Jeff Green. It seems that many of the people yelling for change have taken on a confrontational tone because they think their concerns will only be heard if their voices are loud and their message is provocative.