I love the smell of a rotting orange in the morning...it smells like VICTORY!
It's that time of year again. I woke up this morning without a thought of last night's excellent Super Bowl or without any anxiety about a big meeting I have later in the day. I woke up this morning thinking only of Syracuse -- how much I hate them and much I desperately want to beat their ass this week.
So, given the week, it seems like the right time to look at the Georgetown-Syracuse over the years and to come up with the best five Hoyas-Orange clashes ever.
The Rivalry through the Ages after The Jump:
Before getting into the best games, first a little bit about the rivalry. In my opinion, the rivalry has evolved significantly over the past four decades. Before Patrick Ewing and the Big East, Syracuse was a very familiar team, and often a barrier into the tournament, but it would be hard to say they were the Georgetown's most anticipated game of the year.
The rivalry really took off with JT Jr. and the fifteen year long bitch slap he gave to Jim Boeheim. The eighties and early nineties were the halcyon days in this rivalry. The players were evenly matched. We had Ewing, Alonzo and Reggie. They had Pearl Washington, Sherman Douglas and Derrick Coleman. The difference, and the reason for Georgetown's dominance, was the coaching. JT Jr. absolutely owned Jim Boeheim. Jimmy Boy was intimidated from the moment he'd see big John and he'd coach that way. For all we like to take after him, he's a very good coach, one of the best. That is so long as Thompson wasn't in the building.
During that period, which included a 6 game winning streak for the Hoyas, Syracuse fans grew to hate Georgetown with a passion. I think they were fine with the fact they couldn't academically qualify to get into a school like Georgetown and had even come to terms with leaving in a vast cultural wasteland that sees sun for about 3 days a year.
What Syracuse developed as a result was a massive chip on its shoulder. They used that to become one of the best teams in college year in and year out. And every year JT Jr showed up, with his deep voiced, sarcastic laden, intimidating laugh and knocked that chip right off that shoulder. And Syracuse hated us for it. I mean really deep-seeded multi-generational (that's like mom and dad then kids for the Orange trolls) hate.
Oddly, during the eighties, Georgetown fans were split over who they hated the most. The number one rivalry for most of the 1980's was the Chris Mullin, Walter Berry led St. John's Redmen. Given the number of Massholes that went to Georgetown, BC was the biggest rivalry for many. And with our Jersey connections, many looked at the tough Rutgers and Seton Hall teams as big rivals.
It wasn't until our program fell on hard times and Syracuse began to get our number did we come together as a community in shared hatred. But now we have it and Syracuse has never lost it. And that's why we wait all year for this week.
Without further ado, my version of the best five Georgetown - Syracuse games over the last forty years.
1) John Thompson Jr. grabs the mic and says "Manley Field House is now officially closed".
From an excellent blog called Casual Hoya about a year ago.
"Diehard fans were forced to gather around radios to listen to the game with some young guy with a weird last name calling the play by play. My friends gathered at a dive bar/restaurant called Nicky's. Nicky's was a good place to catch games because the beer was cheap, the cockroaches friendly and they had one of these new projection screens that was at least 25 inches...and yes there was color tv by then.
But it was quite a scene at Nicky's, which by the way became Brusara for awhile and is now something called Blue Ridge or blue something. About 50 rabid fans drinking beer and listening to the radio. I remember nearly getting blown out in the first half, at least some things have not changed, and then very slowly and painfully getting back into the game in the second half. We all conjured up the picture of Syracuse wilting under the withering Georgetown pressure, Shelton and Duren, intimidating the Orange and yound Sleepy Floyd announcing himself to the basketball world. Conjured images because I'm not sure I've ever actually seen an actual highlight from that game. And then Thompson absolutely earning his arrogant son of a bitch reputation by announcing to everyone one in the hall that Manley Field House was officially closed.
If you chronicle Georgetown basketball, this really was the night things changed. It wasn't when Ewing signed or we went to the Final Four. It was the night we closed the Field House."
Now that you can buy videos of any game ever played from the NCAA, I've often wondered whether to spend a couple of bucks and actually see this game. Not a chance. I'm reminded of a conversation I had with my daughter on the release of the first Harry Potter movie. She had read the first couple of books and had more than one horror filled nightmares. But when making her case to see the movie she had the killer argument. She explained to me that Hollywood couldn't produce anything to scare her, the really scary stuff comes from a good book and how it sets off your imagination.
Well that applies to sports, too. Listening to that game, 30 years of embellishment later, I'll prefer to stick to my memories.
Need we say anything else except..eat it Orange fans.
2) Georgetown-Syracuse March 5, 1979 at Cole Field House.
The finals of the then ECAC conference and our ticket into the NCAA tournament. Remember the tournament at this point only took 24 teams, I think, so getting into the tournament was a very, very big deal. Syracuse had a very good team led by Leo Rautins (yes his dad) and Louis Orr, and was heavily favored. But it was easy for all of us to fill up the old Cole Field House on Maryland's campus and the house rocked from the opening tipoff. A huge upset led by John Duren and Craig Shelton set us off on the beginning of an incredible NCAA run for the next 12 years. It was also the day that Jim Boeheim became Thompson's bitch.
3) Georgetown-Syracuse March 10, 1984.
The finals of the Big East Tournament. Madison Square Garden. Patrick Ewing versus Dwayne Pearl Washington. Georgetown wins this game and they are the number one seed in the NCAA tournament.
We were pretty heavily favored. We'd beaten the Orange twice that season already, and Ewing and company had easily dispatched a very good St Johns team in the semis. But Syracuse came to play that day. They led much of the second half and Pearl Washington was magnificant. I have to admit here I loved watching Pearl play. He was the closest thing the Big East ever had to a Magic Johnson type player. And he went to the storied Boys and Girls High School in NYC. The single best basketball book ever written was about the great Connie Hawkins and much of it centers around his time in Brooklyn (the book is called Foul, its written by David Wolffe and is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how college basketball became such a corrupt institution).
Anyway, Patrick and Pearl matched punches throughout the game both scoring 27 points. Michael Graham actually threw a punch at a Syracuse player already on the floor and was ejected. That is until Thompson got on the refs and it was changed to a flagrant foul....two foul shots instead of four....I thought Jimmy Boeheim's head was going to explode and we were going to see actual brain matter on the MSG floor.
Syracuse missed a chance to win at the buzzer and Ewing and Michael Jackson took over in overtime for a comfortable 11 point win. The Hoyas went on to the NCAA championship. The Orange didn't. Jim Boeheim further solidified his reputation as Thompson's poodle by famously whining in the post game press conference that "the best team didn't win today" Really?
There is an excellent Sports Illustrated story on the game and Georgetown from the March 19, 1984 edition that is great reading. If i knew how to link to it from here I would.
4) Georgetown vs. Syracuse March 8th, 1987.
Another Big East championship for Georgetown the fifth in eight years. Although this one is special because Syracuse had a dominant team. Led by Derrick Coleman, Sherman Douglas and Rony Seikaly (and a senior named Greg Monroe), the Orange went on the lose the NCAA championship in the Superdome that year by a Keith Smart 17 footer with time running out. For those of us who watched Michael Jordan drain one 6 years earlier from the same spot, it was a surreal moment.
Georgetown was led by Reggie Williams who scored 25 points. In fact, the ten point margin masked a fairly easy win by the Hoyas. The irony is on the same floor almost three years later Jim Boeheim would have been correct in whining the best team didn't win. It was a great win for us because even in a little bit of a down year we proved we could handle Syracuse anytime, anywhere. And yes, it made Boeheim crazy.
5) Georgetown vs. Syracuse March 11, 2010.
Big East quarterfinals viewed from the Casual Hoya luxury box. For those non-initiated, my seats were actually in the handicapped section of the Garden, a reward for a large donation to the athletic department. I don't really need to recap the game since it was so recent, but this was just a serious ass-whipping from Georgetown to the #3 rated Orange. And, even more fulfilling, Georgetown ruined the Orange season by taking out their center, Arinze Onoaku.
It might be the most satisfying win I've ever seen live. I only started going back to Hoyas games about 3 years ago after a long hiatus. It's been great fun and the teams have been really interesting to watch. But there was something missing. Syracuse kept kicking our butts. Not this night, not this court. My world order was restored, and once again Jim Boeheim was all ours.
On Wednesday night, let's continue the tradition.