This weekend, as the entire university community joins in celebrating 100 years of Hoya Hoops, I too have an anniversary – my 39th, to be precise – for Feb. 10, 2007, is my Hoyaversary, the day that Georgetown Basketball came into my life. On that night, I saw my first Georgetown Basketball game.

The occasion was an incoming freshman recruiting weekend on the Hilltop, which would begin for me a life-long odyssey of finding and nurturing a passion for Georgetown Basketball – and Georgetown University – that is surpassed only by my passion for my family and my faith.

On that night, Georgetown played host to then-inner-city rival, George Washington University at McDonough Gymnasium. The Animal Section – the all-male, center-court cheering section across from the team benches that existed before the college went coed in the fall semester of 1969 – was out in full force. Cries of “The hat! The hat! The hat!” reverberated whenever any fan passed in front of the Animal Section wearing a head covering, and continued until the offending fan took off the hat. As the Section became packed, other male fans would be passed up and deep into the Animal Section amid welcoming cheers of “Pass ’em up! Pass ’em up! Pass ’em up!”

In another sign of a different era at Georgetown, the Animal Section would also hoot whenever a woman passed in front of the Section. It is little wonder that few women tried to pass that gauntlet given the welcome. Appropriately, the Animal Section passed into Hoya lore forever at the end of the 1969-70 home season, when then-freshman Nancy McBride (CAS ’73), Pat Rogozinski (CAS ’73) and other members of the first female class in the College, together with student body president and football co-captain Mike Thornton (CAS ’71, LAW ’74) came to the final game and merely sat down in the Animal Section to watch the game.

What an introduction to Hoya Hoops, and the game had not even started.

Georgetown smashed GWU that night, 76-49, but the reason that this game is in the Hoya record books is because of then-sophomore sensation and now Georgetown Hall of Fame member Charlie Adrion, (C ’70), who pulled down 29 rebounds and scored 30 points. In my mind’s eye, I can still see him skying high above the rim to snare yet another rebound. On that one magnificent Saturday evening in February 1968, Charlie Adrion was the Chairman of the Boards.

When I entered Georgetown in September 1968 and throughout my undergraduate days there, the men’s basketball team consisted mostly of white, Irish Catholic kids from northern New Jersey and New York. My freshman class, in fact, had two of Georgetown’s all-time best players, Mike Laughna (CAS ’72) from St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J., and Art White (SFS ’76) from Archbishop Stepinac on Long Island.

During my undergraduate days, if the team had a “great” season, it had a decent shot at getting an NIT bid. If the Hoyas of 1968-72 won more than their fair share of games against the likes of Fairfield, Manhattan, Fordham, George Washington, Catholic and Randolph-Macon, then it might receive a call from the NIT. Big games in those days were against Columbia with a Jim McMillen and a Heywood Dotson, St. Joseph’s of Philadelphia (“The Hawk Will Never Die!”), and the pre- and early-Lefty Driesell Maryland teams with the likes of Jim “Bozo” O’Brien, Will Hetzel, and Sparky Still.

In my four years, we reached the “NIT pinnacle” once, during 1969-70, culminating in a one-point, 83-82 first-round loss to Pete Maravich’s LSU team, a game in which Maravich was held to less than 20 points. On the other hand, during my senior season, 1971-72, the team finished 3-23. During that season, the team managed a home-court, one-point loss to Penn State, despite taking a one-point lead with one second remaining with Penn State bounding in from the other end of the floor.

That season, of course, led to the firing of Coach Jack Magee and the hiring of a 29-year-old high school coach from St. Anthony’s in D.C. named John R. Thompson, Jr. Out of the 3-23 ashes, a new generation had arrived for Georgetown basketball.

I saw the new generation of Georgetown basketball a few weeks after the 1971-72 season ended as Thompson brought his St. Anthony’s team, with future Hoyas Merlin Wilson (CAS ’76), Jonathan Smith (CAS ’76) and Greg Brooks (CAS ’76), to McDonough to play in the Knights of Columbus Tournament.

St. Anthony’s played Mount Vernon from New York that day, led by Earl Tatum, who was later to star for Coach Al aguire’s Marquette Warriors. Wilson, a dominating 6-foot-9 center, sparked St. Anthony’s to an early lead, but Tatum carried his team back to take the lead. Thereafter, the teams exchanged the leads with each mounting successive runs. As they would often do during their years on the Hilltop, Wilson and Smith led the Tonies. Tatum, a scoring threat from anywhere inside the half-court line, refused to let the New Yorkers go away. In the end, the Tonies won a nail-biter, and I had glimpsed the promising future of Georgetown basketball.

I have been privileged to see all the teams, coaches and players since that time and I have always been proud to be a Georgetown basketball fan. For me, Georgetown Basketball is the central thread that initially tied me to this great University and always brings me back. It is home. It is a part of me. Happy Hoyaversary to Hoya Hoops, and to me!

Michael Karam is a 1972 graduate of the School of Foreign Service, a 1976 graduate of the Law Center and a former sports editor of The Hoya. He is a member of the Alumni Board of Governors.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.