After making the mistake of relying on a radio broadcast of the Hoyas closure of Manley Field House thirty some odd years ago, I made sure to be there in person for the latest party the Hoyas spoiled for the Orange.
There were a lot of things that must have been obvious from watching the game on television. The Carrier Dome is an incredibly cool and intimidating place to play a basketball game. 35,000 orange clad fans showed up early and made more noise than I thought was humanly possible. It may be that there is nothing else to do in Syracuse, but they've created a great atmosphere and a big advantage for the home team.
Equally on display was the indisputable fact that John Thompson III is now a better coach than Jim Boeheim. 900 plus wins is an amazing achievement. And, as much as we love to hate him, the whiner in chief has earned the respect that 900 wins bring. But what we all witnessed yesterday was an old fashioned coaching butt kicking. The Hoyas had all the answers even before the Orange knew there was a problem. The changing defenses and patient offense had Syracuse, and Boeheim in particular off balance all day. The closing down of Manley earned JT Jr. the reputation as the master intimidator. We may very well look back at yesterday's performance as the game when his son was recognized as one of the elite coaches in the country, worthy of mention in the same sentence as Coach K, Knight and Smith.
Watching on TV anyone could see what a special team we've got this year. Syracuse has better athletes, and individually perhaps, better basketball players. But Georgetown proved yesterday what can happen when a team commits to each other and plays for each other.
There were two moments that perhaps didn't make the broadcast, which graphically make this last point. Both happened during crucial timeouts near the end of the game and really, in my opinion, help define this team. The first happened while Thompson huddled with his other coaches comparing notes before talking to the players. Nate Lubick was passionately making some point to his teammates when he grabbed Thompson's whiteboard from a student manager. For the next 30 seconds or so, Nate drew up plays on the board while the rest of the players calmly listened and talked about whatever point Nate was trying to make. For the last 15 seconds, Thompson stood behind Nate and rather than interrupt to make his point, listened to Nate and his player's work through it. Nothing like that was happening on the Syracuse bench where the conversation was all one sided badgering.
I also imagine that this wouldn't have happened even three or four years ago on the Georgetown team. I just don't see Austin Freeman or any other of our high school all American recruits listening and working together the way this team did. Team chemistry may be intangible, but it is real and this team has it.
The second moment happened later in the second half during a timeout with the game still in the balance. Thompson again huddled with his coaches away from the players for about 45 seconds (the timeouts for some reason each seemed to be at least 2-3 minutes each which was a godsend for Otto and his 40 minute stint). This time Jabril Trawick with a mischievous smile on his face leaned in and said something to Moses Ayegba. Moses, who was playing the game of his life, probably was expecting high praise from his teammates. But judging from everyone's reaction, Jabril said something clearly at Moses' expense. Before long, the entire huddle, except for Moses, was laughing hysterically,
When Coach Thompson arrived, again the biggest game of the year still hanging in the balance, he found his team working hard to stifle laughter. After a few seconds it looks like he was let in on the joke and they all spent the rest of the timeout laughing together with even Moses joining at the end.
Neither of these episodes were important enough to interrupt a commercial break and didn't contribute a single point or defensive stop. But I do think it provides a small clue as to why we have not lost in a very long time, will crack the top ten this week and may go down as one of the most fun teams to watch in Georgetown's history.