Hoyas Past is Present as Georgetown Looks to Advance to Sweet 16
COLUMBUS – Every school has media guides.
Most schools have updated game notes.
Some schools are even lucky enough to employ long time sports information directors who can recite firsthand accounts of the biggest moments in program history.
And then there’s Georgetown.
The Hoyas have the man behind the curtain.
Third-seeded Georgetown will face No. 11 North Carolina State for just the second time in the NCAA tournament on Sunday afternoon with a spot in the Midwest regional semifinals and a trip to St. Louis on the line.
But when Coach John Thompson III was asked for his memories on a controversial call late in Georgetown’s 69-61 win over North Carolina State in the 1989 NCAA tournament, a game in which he was neither a player nor a coach, there was an interruption from a voice in a neighboring room separated by just a large black curtain.
His father, the legendary John Thompson II – who won the school’s only national title in 1984 to go along with 595 other wins – gave his thoughts on the idea that both North Carolina State and Princeton fans had legitimate gripes as the Hoyas defeated both schools during a run to the Elite 8.
“Both of them were wrong,” Thompson II said before emerging into the back of the interview room where is son was on stage fielding questions.
And that’s the added dimension surrounding the Georgetown Hoyas both at home and on the road during the NCAA tournament. The face most commonly associated with the school’s basketball program is around and available to give an oral history at any given time.
For his son who is trying to guide the Hoyas (24-8) into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2007, it’s not a problem at all.
“It’s fun to have him here,” Thompson III said about having his father on site while providing tournament analysis on the radio.
Of course when the Hoyas take the court, it will be up to the current coach and players, such as seniors Jason Clark and Henry Sims to write the next chapter in Georgetown history.
Georgetown defeated North Carolina State 82-67 in the championship game of last season’s Charleston Classic but much has changed. Only five combined starters and just one head coach return for the rematch.
In his first year Mark Gottfried, who previously led both Alabama and Murray State to the NCAA tournament, picked up the first tournament win for North Carolina State (23-13) since 2006 when the Wolfpack upset sixth-seeded San Diego State 79-65 behind a dominant inside performance led by Richard Howell (22 points) and C.J. Leslie (15 points).
While much is often made of how difficult it can be to prepare for Georgetown’s Princeton style offense on short notice, the Hoyas will have to switch gears from playing a Belmont team that forced the issue outside by attempting 27 three-pointers to a Wolfpack squad that scored 38 points down low and only attempted nine three-pointers.
“It’s a difficult matchup,” Thompson III said about North Carolina State’s talented frontline.
“And you look at them and they have a very distinct, very tough interior presence. But at the same time they have very good perimeter play.”
Probably the biggest difference from the team the Hoyas defeated last season is the play of heralded prospect C.J. Leslie who is really coming into his own during his sophomore campgaign.
Leslie has increased his scoring average by three points up to 14.6 points per game in large part to taking better shots, his field goal percentage is up to over 50 percent, and trusting his coaching staff.
“I think more than anything, over the course of the year just developing trust and a relationship,” Gottfried said.
“And Calvin especially.”
While Georgetown’s selfless offense starts with center Henry Sims who once again led the Hoyas with five assists in defeating Belmont 74-59 on Friday, it’s his classmate that Sims feels is most important.
“When Jason’s on, we’re extremely difficult to guard because they not only have to worry about Jason but Jason driving,” Sims said about Clark’s 21 points on Friday.
As the Hoyas look to continue their season, there’s no telling where the next answer will come from but one thing is certain, Coach John Thompson III truly appreciates one of the most unique situations in all of college basketball.
“I’m lucky that he is that voice behind the curtain in every aspect of my life. And I welcome that voice behind the curtain.”