From Big John To JT3, Why The Georgetown Hoyas Will Always Matter To MeBasketball, Ed The Sports Fan — By E. Maisonet, III on March 6, 2013 at 11:52 am
In life, there are people who will come into your life who are just impossible to dislike. It doesn’t matter what they do, or who they are, or where they come from, certain people always have a charm about them that you’ll defend to the end.
Most of the time these type of folk are little kids, as their childish ways and kiddish looks make mere mortals melt with joy. Other times, it can be old people. Their willingness to tell the truth at any moment or their desire to tell audacious stories to anyone who will listen will make people admire the lives they lived.
However, when it comes to basketball there’s a program that I’ll always admire because of the way its teams have always played as a collective. A collective force that has imposed its will against its foes for the last 28 years has been the Georgetown Hoyas, and their leaders of young men have always been John Thompson Jr. and John Thompson III. (No disrespect to Craig Esherick, but we’ll act like his four-year reign didn’t happen for the intent of this discussion.)
It’s funny when many think of Georgetown’s past history, with the big man John Thompson prowling on the sidelines from back in the mid-70′s until he retired just prior to the new millennium. Most folks think about the illustrious big men who’ve worn the blue and gray, or the 1984 national championship that was won, or the 1982 national championship that was lost, or the 1985 national championship historic upset in which Villanova bested Georgetown. Is G’Town an HBCU? Hoya Paranoia. All those dope Nikes and Jordans. From the mystique of Allen Iverson to the dreams of Kyle Lee Watson, Georgetown for many has always been the ideal … even when during its rise to power, it was anything but for many.
You’ve got to remember, there were folks who said that Big John reminded them of the infamous Idi Amin (you know, the guy who gave himself grandiose titles, the guy who was a polygamist and the guy who killed over 100,000 of his own people … yeah, that guy), and folks sent hate mail by the thousands. Praise wasn’t being doled out for The District’s favorite basketball team and its coach, but while many had their opinions, the collective remained a tight-knit bunch in an impeccable fashion.
Per Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum in 1985, on the unified front that was early G’Town:
“That’s it, isn’t it? They have the hearts of champions—proud, defiant, unyielding. Take note of their shortcomings: Following the lead of their coach, John Thompson, they’re clannish, suspicious and defensive. But grant them their due. They play hard, they play together, they play selflessly, and they play as well as any team since John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty ended in the early ’70s.”
Clannish. Suspicious. Defensive. Three words that would immediately draw a frown from most folks, but in the perspective of a basketball team, isn’t that exactly what you want? What Big John was cultivating in Georgetown was something that seemed radical, but in reality it was just Big John doing things his way. Legendary fictional writer and professor John Wideman observed Big John on the job, with the people and even chatted with the man. Wideman compared the plight of a black writer to that of Thompson, as being a radical is only radical to those who don’t understand a new perspective:
“I think of black writers, of the usual way literary history, literary critics treat us. We are inserted into a framework of white models. Acceptability rests on how well we approximate, imitate these models. Black divergence from the models is seen not as originality, uniqueness, but as outlaw behavior, deviance. The notion of reshuffling the framework, redefining quality with black examples as part of the matrix, seldom, if ever, occurs.”
Outlaw … there’s that word again.
It’s interesting to think that when Big John stepped down from the perch that was the head coaching gig at Georgetown, and Little John ascended to the throne, his son would have to be the one who would be the outlaw. Or rebel, that might be the better term, because John the Third had to do it his way at Georgetown, a way different than his father’s. Sure, there would be plenty of principles that the son would carry over from his father, but JT3′s tenure as head coach of the Hoyas is as different as the offense he runs now (a motion-based Princeton offense) versus what his daddy did (slow-paced, physical style) 15 years prior.
Really, it just comes down to an always useful Jay-Z lyric:
“Hov did that, so hopefully you don’t have to go through that.”
Indeed, Big John did so Little John didn’t.
So here we stand, in 2013, and what do we know? We know that John Thompson III is one of the finest college basketball coaches in all the land. That motion offense he runs, with those players that aren’t like the players at Princeton, creates magic. It’s refreshing basketball to watch when things run at peak efficiency. In 2013, the Hoyas are ranked #5 and are in the running for a potential #1 seed in the upcoming annual tournament that the NCAA holds in March. In Otto Porter, JT3 might have what Big John had in Reggie Williams, Alonzo Mourning or Othella Harrington. A player who can hold his own in any situation, who’s always prepared, and also willing to lead. And in a season where chaos has reigned at the top of the college basketball rankings, it seems that a team that was clannish, suspicious and defensive would be ideal to make a title run in the next 30 days.
There’s no college program quite like Georgetown; they’re an original. No one compares to Big John’s bunch in the early 80′s, and nowadays no one compares to JT3′s group. They’re supremely different and exactly the same. They are divergent outlaws, and that’s why I’ll always like them oh so much.