January 28, 2005


Pops's Pride Is Hard to Hide (Thomas Boswell, January 28, 2005, Washington Post)

The elder John Thompson, the one they just call "Pops" at Georgetown, tries to hide as much as he can these days.

During the Hoyas' home games, the Hall of Fame coach hides in the highest suite seats of MCI Center. He sits alone, listening to play-by-play on the radio as he watches his son, John III, coach his former team. He knows the only "John" on the Hilltop now is his 38-year-old son. So, he tries to make his famous 6-foot-10 frame disappear in the most remote arena seat.

"I sit in the rooftop in the dark, nobody anywhere near me," Thompson said yesterday, breaking silence for one of the few times since his son became coach last April. "During the game, I talk to myself. I talk to John as if he were sitting there next to me. I curse the air. I listen to Rich [Chvotkin] on the radio. I curse him, too. I don't even realize I can just switch the radio off."

As this surprising January has unfolded, Thompson has had to hide not only his huge physical and symbolic presence at Georgetown, but also his swelling pride in what his son is accomplishing with a team that lost 15 of its last 18 games last season and was picked by Big East coaches to finish 11th in the league this season.

"Anybody who says they predicted before the season that Georgetown would do this is lying," Thompson said of the 13-5 Hoyas. "They've already won more games than I thought they'd win all year. John's a far better coach than I was as this point in my career."

In particular, Georgetown has stunned the Big East with a 5-2 conference record, including a competitive loss to defending national champion Connecticut, an overtime loss to then No. 7 Syracuse, an upset of then 16th-ranked Pittsburgh and amazing wins -- both in the final second -- over Notre Dame (55-54) and Villanova (66-64). [...]

For now, no two teams could look more different than Hoyas of the Thompsons II and III.

Pops tried to create chaos with pressure defense, gladly trading turnovers, fouls and collisions just so the game's tempo would shoot through the roof into a kind of madhouse version of basketball that the other team had never seen, but GU loved.

In contrast, the current Hoyas are more aesthetically pleasing on offense. John III loves back-door cuts, half-court precision and a constant rain of three-point shots from five players who all have permission to shoot from beyond the arc. Princeton, where the younger Thompson played and was an assistant coach under legendary Pete Carril, was famous for its long shooting. GU now launches even more. Bowman and Jeff Green, both 6-8 forwards, as well as Jonathan Wallace and junior Ashanti Cook all light it up.

The prospect of Carril style combined with Thompson athletes should scare people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 28, 2005 7:52 AM

You could not play the Carrill system with the older Thompson's 'student-athletes' who were for the most part illiterate felons. They completely lacked the discipline for it.

Posted by: Bart at January 28, 2005 2:33 PM

That's what coaches are for.

Posted by: oj at January 28, 2005 4:28 PM

How dare you. They were not felons. Maybe an occasional misdeanmor....

On the other hand, the Dana Kirk coach of Memphis State, who were in the same 1985 final four with Georgetown later did prison time for tax evasion.

Posted by: h-man at January 28, 2005 4:28 PM

Tax evasion isn't a crime. It's an act of patriotic resistance.:)

The Carrill system works great at Princeton and at the Air Force Academy. It would probably do well at a lot of schools willing to give scholarships to second and third rate athletes who are intelligent enough and disciplined enough to make the system work. Bob Knight has been getting teams national rankings with 2d level athletes for years.

But you could comb all of America's inner cities for prospects and you wouldn't find 5 kids who are top level athletes with the intelligence and discipline to work in this system.

Posted by: Bart at January 28, 2005 5:43 PM

Hasn't bothered him in the NBA.

Posted by: oj at January 28, 2005 6:41 PM


There's an NBA team that plays the Carrill system?

Posted by: Bart at January 28, 2005 7:03 PM

The one he coaches.

Posted by: oj at January 28, 2005 7:21 PM

I think he is an adviser for the Sacramento Kings, but they wouldn't know a backdoor cut from a crack pipe.

We observed the disciplined, high IQ play of the NBA when the US was losing to Lithuania and Argentina.

Posted by: Bart at January 29, 2005 12:00 PM

He says they do. We'll take his word over yours.

Posted by: oj at January 29, 2005 1:09 PM

Every man has his price and I guess the NBA found Pete Carrill's.

Posted by: Bart at January 29, 2005 5:04 PM

If everyone who disaqrees with you is bought off someone's handing out a lot of money.

Posted by: oj at January 29, 2005 5:55 PM