COMMENTARY: Students Lose Faith in Basketball Team

Graduate student guard and leading scorer Rodney Pryor has been a bright spot on Georgetown this season. Pryor ranks third in the Big East in scoring with 18.1 points per game. (FILE PHOTO: DERRICK ARTHUR)

Graduate student guard and leading scorer Rodney Pryor has been a bright spot on Georgetown this season. Pryor ranks third in the Big East in scoring with 18.1 points per game. (FILE PHOTO: DERRICK ARTHUR)

Immediately after the final buzzer sounded at an exasperated Verizon Center on Wednesday night, music blared to drown out an all-too-familiar chant from the departing students and fans: “Fire Thompson!”

A 67-65 loss to Big East basement-dweller DePaul did more than guarantee the Hoyas another losing season in conference play; it affirmed the growing lack of faith that the student body has in the basketball program and its head coach.

It is time that someone said it. President John J. DeGioia, it is time to remove Head Coach John Thompson III from his position at the head of the Georgetown men’s basketball team.

We, the student body is told, are Georgetown. If that is the case, then the past two seasons have been an insult to all of us. Georgetown is not feared, respected nor nationally relevant anymore. We, the students, are all too aware; it is the athletic department, DeGioia and Thompson who choose to remain blissfully ignorant.

Georgetown is still Georgetown, but it is not your parents’ Georgetown. The program needs to change soon or risk being altered by a rising tide of apathy among students.

It was not supposed to be this way. Georgetown expected to be the dominant force in a new Big East, one filled with schools formerly in mid-major conferences and unthreatening teams from the original Big East.

Only three years later, the program’s arrogance is receiving its deserved punishment. Georgetown has a 32-37 regular season record in the new Big East, no titles of any sort and one NCAA Tournament appearance in three — soon to be four — years.

Sporting a 5-10 record, the Hoyas occupy sole possession of ninth place in the 10-team conference. Georgetown has become a liability for the relatively new conference instead of one of its assets.

Two main reasons exist for the decline of Georgetown’s program: the inability to attract top-tier talent and the refusal to change and adapt schematically. The responsibility for both of these, as in any program, falls on the head coach.

First, Georgetown is no longer a viable contender for the nation’s best recruits. Even in the Blue and Gray’s own backyard, Maryland’s recent successes make competing for DMV recruits all the more difficult.  Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart — both national champions at Villanova — grew up Hoya fans and attended Gonzaga College High School and Sidwell Friends School, respectively. However, in the recruitment process, Georgetown lost out on Hart and failed to pursue Jenkins.

Two decades ago, Georgetown could use talks of Final Fours and a national title to lure recruits to the Hilltop, but today, a 2007 Final Four seems like ancient history to current recruits who were in elementary school a decade ago.

Additionally, the player development from recruited talent has been underwhelming, if not outright disappointing.

For example, Isaac Copeland was rated by 247 Sports as the 24th best player nationally in the class of 2014 but failed to realize his potential. In two-plus seasons here, he averaged fewer than nine points and five rebounds per game, and has since transferred to Nebraska.

Recruiting aside, Georgetown’s system is primarily responsible for the team’s 14-14 record. Thompson has always advertised himself as a defense-minded coach, but for the past four seasons the defense has been mediocre at best. Since 2013, the Hoyas have not finished a season higher than 110th in defensive efficiency.

This year’s defense ranks 116th in efficiency, 302nd in fouls per game and cedes opponents just fewer than 10 offensive rebounds per game. This is not tough or smart defense — statistically, this is bad defense.

The offense is not much better. Despite immense innovations in basketball over the past decade, Thompson’s beloved Princeton offense has appeared lethargic for years, and the numbers back up the eye test. In the last five seasons, Georgetown has never had a top-50 offense measured by efficiency and in three of those seasons has been ranked worse than 100th.

Ultimately, the most successful college basketball coaches create a whole that is greater than the sum of a team’s parts. This is where Thompson has failed: the parts he recruits are increasingly inadequate or fail to develop, and the whole is glaringly insufficient compared to its peers.

This is also becoming clear to Georgetown’s opponents. After Wednesday’s loss, DePaul guard Billy Garrett felt that, “ [Georgetown] didn’t want to play hard.”

Undoubtedly, the players bear responsibility for their efforts, but it is a larger reflection on Thompson. On Thompson’s watch, Georgetown has a history of underestimating and underperforming against opponents it should easily handle.

We can tolerate a losing season or two, but how the program responds in this moment is crucial. Letting our angst continue without acknowledging the problem will inevitably breed apathy.

Indecision risks further apathy. The time to make a change is now, and the school has only one choice: Fire JTIII.

Michael Ippolito and Chris Balthazard are both seniors in the College.

 

The original article included quotes from Hoya Blue that were intended for another article.

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

30 Comments

  1. Well. Said. Time to go.

  2. Gerard Fritz says:

    You forgot to mention the inability to defend or shoot the 3-point shot. It is as if it isn’t even part of our coach’s game. And the inability (or stubborn refusal) over the years to recruit a consistent scorer with a reliable outside shot. The downhill slide really began with the loss to Florida Gulf Coast in the first round of the NCAA’s (remember them?) in 2013 and the past 2 years have been sad and embarrassing. It has got to be demoralizing for the players. The coach should not have to be fired. He should resign out of respect for the name on the uniform. We Are Georgetown!

  3. It’s not a lack of talent. There has been enough talent to get into the NCAA Tournament in each of the past three years. It may not be a Final Four roster, but it has enough talent to go to the round of 32 or better.

    It’s the scheme (sluggish, predictable), bench coaching (ugh, Maryland) and team culture (wildly inconsistent effort levels).

    John Thompson Jr. made GU a respected and feared team using solid players and great coaching. That led to Ewing, Iverson and the other top talent. First you win, then you can recruit.

  4. Glad to see the Hoya grew a spine and stopped worrying if the admin would strip their press pass or not.

  5. He won’t get fired as long as John Jr on the sidelines. favors. JT3 has it made, gets 3 mil to lose. only at Gtown

  6. Georgetown Forever says:

    As someone who was a freshman when the Hoyas made their phenomenal run to the Final Four and has gotten to see so many incredible games in somewhat recent history, watching this team has become so demoralizing. For a school that lacks a big-time football program, basketball provides a unique opporunity to provide a rallying cry and point of unification for the student and alumni community. Winter Basketball Weekend should be a marquee event that brings Hoyas of all ages back to D.C., but, frankly, the way this team has underperformed the last several years has made me disinclined to buy a plane ticket and come back for a game. Going to games and getting there hours beforehand for a shot at front-row seats was a defining part of my Georgetown experience, and I can’t believe it has come to this. This is not a question of talent- JTIII has recruited talented players over the past several years and has squandered that talent. This is a question of coaching. Fire JTIII.

  7. Credit to The Hoya for finally having the guts to run something critical of the program.

    You can say the argument that “Georgetown is no longer a viable contender for the nation’s best recruits” is faulty given that both Hart and Jenkins were ranked lower than Reggie Cameron coming out of high school, but it’s a minor detail.

    Barring a miraculous run to finish this season, JT3 should go.

  8. Michael George says:

    It’s about time someone had enough courage to question the wisdom of continuing to pay $3 million per year for a coach
    that, quite frankly, is downright incompetent. Other coaches exploit GU’s weaknesses and Coach Thompson is incapable of making proper adjustments during games. When he gets ahead, he invariably slows the team down and GU ends up with turnovers and a loss of momentum. Even the President of the US. (Obama) at one game, commented that Georgetown “needs to keep attacking.” The administration also needs to replace the football coach who is probably even worse.

    I thing I will discontinue my very modest contribution to Hoyas Unlimited until changes are made. C 62″

    C 62′

  9. good article, BUT to all of you ‘HOYAS’…, , Where are the fans?? the stands are empty! reminds me of 1970 at Mcdonnough! I would have to explain to my date and friends why I cared. Is it only about winning? Sure winning is fun. We may need a new coach (but remember OTTO!, he does recruit some cool ones), but we sure need a LOT of new fans. Live fans help the team, they help the coaches, they keep the players playing hard to the last second. Get to the game! We can still win two more….GAME ON!

    • It’s an unavoidable fact that you can’t expect student attendance without a national program. GU isn’t in some remote location where entertainment options are scarce. A game needs to be an EVENT to get Hoyas and DC people (students, alum and the public) to show up. A game is not an event unless there’s something big at stake. When you have a losing record, there isn’t much at stake. Attendance is not to blame for the record; but the record is to blame for the attendance.

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  11. John Thompson Jr. and his son are treasures of the Georgetown Community and should be respected as such. I am absolutely SICKENED by all the fairwether fans out there who abandon there team after a losing season. grow up. Students who lead ‘JT3′ chants at gerogtown games should be identified by the school and be expelled or at the very least suspended for insubordination and gross lack of school spirit

    • * who lead “Fire JT3″

    • Ancient Hoya says:

      John Thompson Jr. is a treasure and an icon. His character and charisma changed many lives.

      JT3 is his son. He’s a good person and an OK coach. He’s had a number of bad seasons (not one) and the program is on the precipice of a long term crisis which will undo decades of work. The basketball program fuels national awareness of GU and boosts applicants, which boosts selectivity, which enhances the school’s reputation. I’m going to guess you don’t watch much Hoya basketball or you’d know this.

      Expel or suspend students for speaking out? America first?

      • Ancient Hoya says:

        PS: Winning matters. JT Jr. would not be the icon that he is without the championships. It’s not crass or shallow to believe in the power of victory. The legacy cannot be sustained without it. Nobody talks about NYU football anymore.

      • I am a huge gerogtown basketball fan have seen every game since 1972 (this is several decades before I was even BORN). Applicants to this school should value LOYALTY above all else and if they don’t they might be better off going to schools like the alabama (see: Lane Kiffin debacle). Who cares if coach Jt3 is underpreforming? As long as the guys are out their on the court having fun shooting hoops I see no problem with the program or it’s future

    • It is “their team,” as opposed to there team. You accept mediocrity in your own life, so it is no surprise that you are willing to accept mediocrity in Georgetown basketball. Your willingness to accept absolutely pathetic performance is the problem. We cannot even make the NIT, much less compete in the NCAA tournament. The fact that you would expel students for chanting for change only further illustrates your complete lack of judgment. The program needs Patrick Ewing. He was the real reason for Georgetown’s success and will bring the program back to greatness. Mullin vs. Ewing…epic!

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  13. Mike Flynn says:

    I am a Maryland alum with many ties to Georgetown. My father and several members of my family attended Georgetown or Georgetown law school. I was born at Georgetown University Hospital. I attended my first college basketball game at McDonaugh in 1965.

    JTIII will never be fired due to the Icon that is his father. The elephant in the room is racial. My uncle Sean, a Georgetown grad mentioned that when he proudly told someone he wen’t to Georgetown, more than one person asked, “why did you go to an all black school”?

    Georgetown knows that firing an African American icon’s son will be perceived as racist by many. It amazes me that in the last 40 years that I have watched the Hoyas I can only remember one white player who started? Georgetown is Black America’s team not the Universities?

    • There have been plenty of white players who have played and started for Georgetown

      • Mike Flynn says:

        SFS 2016

        Please name any white starters under the “Thompson Dynasty”? I haven’t googled it but I remember only one? There have been several walk on’s or role players. Big John was asked years ago about the lack of white players and he said, “let’s face it, it’s a black mans game”.

        Maryland has Huerter, plus Bender and Checko. All can play and Huerter has NBA potential. If you remember it was Huerter who won the game for Maryland with a block at the end against Georgetown!

        • Ancient Hoya says:

          What has this got to do with anything? Coaches recruit and offer to the best players, and then it’s up to the recruits to choose. DC-based teams will recruit heavily from local schools. Are you suggesting that the racial makeup of the team is wrong? Bad? Isn’t it just as possible that it’s the white recruits making a racial choice not to play for JTIII?

          • Mike Flynn says:

            It has a lot to do with it. It’s clear that Georgetown only recruits black players which limits your talent pool. Even though black players are the majority there are a few good players who aren’t black. Georgetown is no longer a national power in case you haven’t noticed. I hope you keep your coach and attitude so you will stay at the bottom of the Big East! Enjoy the Terp’s in the NCAA!

      • Mike Flynn says:

        SFS 2016

        A Jesuit education infers that you should have a logical thought process? I see a lot of fear and intimidation in these posts as manifested by people using tag names to avoid possible recrimination? You don’t have to believe me. Do your own research. Start by googling “white players at Georgetown”.

        http://www.casualhoya.com/2014/10/21/7025783/georgetown-basketball-and-race

        I am sure John Jr. had his reasons growing up in the 50’s and 60’s to be the way he was or still is? JTIII is a good man but has DAD looking over his shoulder at every turn! The Princeton offense went the way of the “I” formation. Villanova uses a modern offense and the best player’s available regardless of race.

        Call me names. I don’t care because I’m old, retired and will probably die soon. Find your own truth, but you don’t just need a coach. You need a President who isn’t afraid of Big John. I don’t see that happening any time soon?

        Good luck!

        • Ancient Hoya says:

          Implies, not infers.
          Jesuit education should teach the difference.

          • Mike Flynn says:

            Ancient;

            Touche!

            Thank’s for the grammar lesson? Seriously, I hope Georgetown figures this out. They should look at other highly rated academic institutions like Duke, Northwestern, or Villanova as models. The old us against the world crap hasn’t played since the 70’s. You are a good loyal fan and the Hoya’s could use more guy’s like you in the stands.

  14. It’s an embarrassment that a school like Georgetown cares this much about sports. Nearly none of the school’s peers save the large State schools waste this much time and energy on something that is totally irrelevant to the stated mission of a quality university. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with collegiate sports, but nearly everything is wrong with professional sports at the collegiate level, which is exactly what most Division 1 teams are. The cheapskates that make up GU’s alumni should be ashamed that the school has to stoop to such an unbecoming endeavor just to keep the lights on.

    • Ancient Hoya says:

      A valid opinion, and the “student athlete’ myth is hard to swallow with Div 1 sports where the students barely get the chance to be scholars. But I’d hate to see GU lose an element that makes it superior to the purely academic institutions. School spirit and image is greatly enhanced by the basketball team. If GU did not have a good Div 1 basketball team, 95% of the Hoya shirts and hats wouldn’t exist.

      I’d rather GU be like Duke or Stanford, than try to look like a wanna-be-Ivy League school.

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