The upcoming season will be John Thompson III's tenth as the head man at Georgetown. Regular season success, a clean program, and a strong family connection to the university afford JT3 tremendous job security, even in the face of disturbingly frequent post-season flame outs. The past several years also had seen a fair amount of continuity on the rest of the Hoya bench. Then, this summer brought with it an overhaul of JT3's staff, with potential implications for how Georgetown recruits and plays.
Entering last season, Georgetown's bench appeared to be fairly stable, if lacking a bit of spice. Robert Kirby came, saw, recuited, and left, first to LSU, and now to Memphis. He was replaced as an assistant coach by prodigal son Kevin Broadus, who has replaced Kirby's recruiting prowess while repairing an image that was tarnished during a tumultuous head coaching experience at Binghamton. With that change, JT3 enjoyed a veteran bench last season, with Broadus (then entering his fifth season as a Hoya assistant) flanking Mike Brennan (fourth) and Kenya Hunter (sixth). Add in Director of Basketball Operations Scott Greenman (third season at Georgetown), Assistant DOBO Othella Harrington (former Hoya player, second season on the Hoya bench), and JT3 could lean on a relatively experienced staff.
Still, experience isn't everything, and there were some perceived flaws in the construction of the Hoya bench. Brennan was perceived as a subpar recruiter, and those who disliked the similarities between the Georgetown and Princeton offenses were bound to dislike anyone with a Princeton pedigree. Hunter also came under some discussion board criticism for his alleged recruiting deficiencies, though that criticism is at beast partly belied by Hunter's reputation as a gym rat.
Two big moves changed the Hoya bench this off-season. First came the announcement in April that Brennan had been hired as American University's head coach. For Brennan, the move was both a promotion and a return to his last stop before Georgetown. Eventually, Brennan took Greenman with him as well, leaving two openings on the Georgetown staff.
Things were quiet for more than a month, though rumors percolated of candidates and interviews. Then, the news came all at once. On June 5, reports surfaced that Georgetown would hire Tavaras Hardy, an assistant at Northwestern, which recently had fired long-tenured coach Bill Carmody, who not coincidentally was JT3's predecessor at Princeton. Hardy offered familiarity with a similar offensive system (Hardy first played under then assisted Carmody at Northwestern), energetic recruiting (he had largely been responsible for Northwestern's much improved influx of talent in recent years), and Midwest ties as the Big East pivoted that way.
Later the same day, word circulated that Georgetown also had hired George Washington assistant Kevin Sutton. While Hardy brought youthful energy to the Georgetown staff, Sutton promised veteran experience. Before coaching at GW, Sutton had spent the bulk of his career building a series of prep powers, most recently at Montverde Academy, and also had made stops at James Madison and Old Dominion.
The hires of Hardy and Sutton ostensibly left four assistants for just three NCAA-permitted positions. Sutton's new position wasn't immediately announced, leaving room for speculation that he might replace Greenman as Georgetown's Director of Basketball Operations, sacrificing in title for a move to a more prestigious program.
But a different solution soon surfaced, as Hunter left the Hilltop for a lead assistant position at Nebraska. There was speculation about the pecking order between Hunter and Broadus, and whether JT3 might have given the latter a lead spot on the Hoya bench. Regardless, the assistant logjam was cleared, and JT3 appeared to have his staff for the coming season and perhaps beyond. (Harrington is now listed as the Director of Basketball Operations, and an assistant DOBO position has not been announced.)
What It All Means
With the new staff, Georgetown's recruiting footprint will shift over the coming years. What ties Brennan had trended toward the Northeast, while Hunter primarily recruited Virginia and the Carolinas. Hardy is linked to the Chicago area, and already has been responsible for the commitment of Paul White, a top-100 2014 forward from the Second City. As Georgetown plans to play conference road games annually in Chicago, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati those ties will come in handy. Coincidence or not, Georgetown has been mentioned in connection with several prospects in the Midwest in coming classes (2015: Diamond Stone, Carlton Bragg, Henry Ellenson; 2016: VJ King, Caleb Swanigan). Sutton reinforces Broadus's and JT3's local connections while also branching out into Florida, where Sutton coached at Montverde. On the whole, Georgetown's recruiting prowess likely has upgraded, though time will tell.
In game-planning, this season will be JT3's first as ahead coach with a staff entirely lacking in direct Princeton connections. After several years under Princeton disciple Carmody, Hardy figures to offer variations on a theme, while Sutton's experience at several different stops likely will give him a broader perspective. Will that mean a more guard-centric attack centered around dribble drives or a pick-and-roll system? Will the Hoyas look to push the pace?
Don't count on wholesale change. JT3's game planning adjustments rarely meet the demands of the clamoring online hordes. Still, there are reasons to believe a few tweaks might be in the works this year. Once he's eligible, Josh Smith figures to be one of the Hoyas' three primary offensive weapons. While Georgetown's offense often pits one or both posts near the elbows, Smith's size will be wasted 18 feet that far from the basket and he may not have the mobility to slide easily between the high and low posts. Georgetown's other two main scoring threats, Markel Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, are guards who may benefit from specific actions designed to free them for easy looks. Nevertheless, both the similarities in Georgetown's offense over the years and the passing ability of both Smith and fellow big man Nate Lubick suggest that we'll see some offense initiated from the high post.
There were points in JT3's tenure whether the assistants seemed like an afterthought. Perhaps the budget wasn't there for high-level assistants, or the head coach was too inclined toward assistants with a certain Ivy league pedigree. Regardless, this iteration of the staff does not appear to be short-handed, and looks to offer a solid balance of youth and experience, recruiting chops and in-game savvy, to help JT3 move the Hoyas in the right direction.