Legend Passes Torch to Assistant

Georgetown Graduate Esherick Appointed Head Coach

By David Wong Hoya Staff Writer

A new chapter in Georgetown athletics was opened on Jan. 8 as alumnus and long-time assistant coach Craig Esherick takes the reins of Georgetown’s storied men’s basketball program.

Moments after Thompson stunned the Georgetown community and college basketball world with his resignation on Jan. 8, Athletic Director Joseph Lang introduced Esherick as the 16th head men’s basketball coach in the program’s 92-year history.

“[Esherick] is the best person to lead our basketball program and provides us with stability and continuity, a link with tradition and exciting possibilities for the future,” Lang said. “He embodies the values that have made Georgetown basketball the living tradition that it is.”

According to Lang, the university was in the process of working out a long-term contract with Esheric. As an assistant, Esherick signed one-year contracts whose details the university not disclose. Thompson is said to have earned around $350,000 last season.

Esherick played for the Hoyas under Thompson from 1974-78, starting several games at guard during his senior season. As a player, Esherick is famous for making a 40-foot, tying shot at the buzzer against George Washington in 1978, a game the Hoyas eventually won in overtime.

Though Esherick has never held a head coaching position – he served as interim coach for the five games Thompson missed during his tenure – Georgetown President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J. approved his appointed Esherick to one of college basketball’s most high-profile coaching positions based heavily on Thompson’s recommendation.

“I consider it an honor that Thompson asked Father O’Donovan that I become the new head coach,” Esherick said. “And I also consider myself a complete fool to follow in his footsteps. He has done the best that he can to prepare me for this, and whether or not I do a good job, I know that I was a very good assistant coach, and I know that I’ve been prepared by the man who I think is the best college coach in the country right now.”

Esherick’s situation mirrors that of current North Carolina Head Coach Bill Guthridge, who succeeded the legendary Dean Smith. Guthridge, a long-time Smith assistant who never held a head coaching position, was promoted in 1997 after Smith’s surprise retirement.

Under Thompson, Esherick’s duties included nearly every aspect of the team. His emphasis was on recruiting, and was instrumental in helping the Hoyas land a heralded class of recruits for next season, including highly-touted guard Courtland Freeman.

“Coach Thompson has let me see every side of the business, from picking up basketballs to talking to NBA general managers,” Esherick said. “He has shown me every facet of this business. Because of that, it has prepared me for the job.

“I didn’t have the luxury of not getting used to it right away. It’s something I had to do.”

Esherick is expected to retain long-time assistant coach Mike Riley, who was a former teammate at Georgetown, and first-year assistant Ronny Thompson.

Esherick inherits a struggling Hoya team which had lost four of its previous five games heading into its toughest stretch of the season. Georgetown faces three ranked teams in the next two weeks, all conference games. The Hoyas are 12th out of 13 teams in the Big East, but have shown steady progress, which Esherick said he intends to build on.

“At the end of the December we were playing better than when we were in November. We’re building,” Esherick said. “I want us to do the best we can and win some games. It’s not going to be easy.

“But the bottom line in this business is that you do have to win.”

Esherick graduated from the School of Business in 1978 with a degree in finance, and in 1982 earned a law degree from Georgetown Law School. After a short stint as an assistant at St. Anthony’s High School, Esherick became a graduate assistant with Thompson and Georgetown in 1979 and was hired as a full-time assistant coach in 1982.

A member of the Washington, D.C. Bar Association, Esherick also served as a scout for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team which Thompson coached.

All told, Esherick has been affiliated with Georgetown University for the past 25 years.

“Craig has spent 17 years coaching at Georgetown preparing for this day,” Lang said. “Craig knows X’s and O’s, how to build a team and he has experienced and successfully worked through the highs and lows that are an inevitable part of life as a coach.”

Esherick is married to Theo Stamos, assistant commonwealth attorney for Arlington County, Va., and has two sons, Nicholas, 6, and Zachary, 2.

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