The Day After: Thompson Sees Georgetown Win

By Sean P. Flynn Hoya Staff Writer

Everything looked the same. The players and coaches sat in the same places on the bench. Academic adviser Mary Fenlon was still in the second seat from the right. And on the court, the Hoyas were much the same, still playing their trademark unforgiving defense and still missing 50 percent of their free throws.

But 26 hours after John Thompson’s abrupt resignation as head coach of the basketball team, looks were deceiving.

Twenty-six hours after Thompson quit, the world got its first glimpse of the new picture of Georgetown basketball – similar to its appearance for the last 27 years yet remarkably different – when the Hoyas played the Providence Friars at MCI Center on Jan. 9.

The team and new Head Coach Craig Esherick were given little time to gather all their emotions from the loss of their mentor, yet it may have been those emotions that helped the Hoyas overcome a second-half deficit and upset the Friars 75-70 for their first Big East win of the season.

For Esherick, who declined to be named during introductions as a way to honor Thompson, it was a nice way to start his regime.

“It was very tough for me to control my emotions when that happened,” Esherick said after the game. “There’s an awful lot he’s done for me. He’s my friend, he’s been my teacher, and it would not do justice to attempt to explain to you what he means to me.”

Esherick had been worried about how some of the players would react to the resignation, and was pleased at how poised they played, namely Nat Burton. It was Burton’s defense against Jamel Thomas that held the Friar star to 0-for-7 shooting in the first half. And it was his consistent offense (20 points) that helped Georgetown pull off the win.

“The one player that I was most worried about, when Coach Thompson talked to the team was Nat, because of how emotional he is and his closeness to Coach Thompson.” Esherick said. “He just came out and played great on both ends of the court, on offense and defense.”

The Hoyas were behind for most of the second half, trailing by as much as six with seven minutes remaining. But a pair of threes and a free throw by freshman guard Kevin Braswell sandwiching a Justin Farley jumper allowed the Hoyas within one point with 4:52 left.

After trading baskets and getting a free throw from sophomore swingman Nat Burton to tie the game, a jumper by Braswell, a Providence turnover and a layup by Nat Burton put the Hoyas up for four with 1:24 left. Providence never got closer than three, and the Hoyas earned their first league win.

In support for the “Georgetown family,” several former Hoyas supported Esherick behind the bench. Patrick Ewing and Ralph Dalton accompanied the team from the locker room before the game, and were joined behind the bench by the likes of Dikembe utumbo, Alonzo Mourning, Jahidi White and agent David Falk, who represents numerous former Hoyas as well as Thompson.

Thompson himself watched the game from a skybox in the endzone on the Georgetown side of the court. He received an ovation after his service to the university was noted after introductions, but it was not until the end of the game that most of the crowd of 9,502 found Thompson up in his perch. Thompson and Esherick made eye contact and Thompson signaled his approval to his successor, pumping his fist in the air.

“At the end, I definitely wanted to let him know I knew where he was sitting,” said Esherick. “I was coach today, but I think there is no question that this was Thompson’s victory.”

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