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Should Georgetown Make a Coaching Change? The Case for Why John Thompson III Should Stay

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, we brought you "The Case Against JT3" and today, here's Chris Haines with some thoughts as to why JT3 should remain as the coach of the Georgetown Hoyas.


First, let me start by saying that I don't think JTIII is going anywhere this season. As frustrated as we are as fans and as loud as the grumbling is after this really bad year, I don't see a scenario where Georgetown lets him go this offseason. There are two reasons for this (beyond the "Thompson thing") I think. One, the new practice facility opens in the fall. JTIII essentially got this building built and the University just isn't going to fire him before it opens. Two, he was 20 minutes from the Sweet 16 last season. I know we're looking at missing the NCAA Tournament altogether twice in the last three seasons, but the reality is that during that third season the team largely met expectations and simply lost to a better team in the Round of 32. You can argue the validity of those reasons for keeping JTIII this offseason, but they're the two primary reasons I think his seat won't really be that warm this year.

As for whether he should be on the hot seat, I honestly don't really know what I think. I'm still not convinced there is a concrete issue with the losses in March. There are some consistencies in the way we've lost some of those games, but each of those teams was very different (personnel, makeup, statistical profile, you name it) and in each case it was still only a one-game sample. Go back and look at the 2007 tournament run. That team arguably got incredibly lucky against BC, Vandy, and UNC. If similar luck befell last year's team or the 2012 team that lost to a tricky NC State team or any of the others, we're not having this conversation. All of this is to say, I don't buy our failures in March to this point as a reason to get rid of JTIII. I get the frustration around it and I would understand the motivation if this proved to be the tipping point, but given the current college basketball landscape and the realities of a single elimination format, I personally don't think this is enough to make the switch.

That said, there are major problems with our trajectory as a program that JTIII has to answer for in some capacity. A lot of the issues we've highlighted throughout this season (offensive stagnation, turnovers, foul rate) are major indictments of him as a coach and they absolutely need to be addressed. The foul rate and failure to adjust to the new contact rules for three full season are particularly glaring as coaching problems for me. And not making the tournament twice in three years is a major problem, especially as the profile of both the program and our conference drops nationally.

Outside of the actual basketball failures, particularly over the last three seasons, the biggest indictment of him as coach is the lack of excitement around the program right now. The biggest reason for this is the lack of consistent winning in recent years. Fix the on-court product and a lot of the excitement will return. This is absolutely on him as a coach. I think another factor in this lack of enthusiasm is the limited access and accountability that alleninxis referenced yesterday. There just aren't any answers coming from the coach or the program at this point and that leads to frustration and eventually apathy. This is also on coach in my opinion. The other major, major factor in this lack of excitement is the current conference makeup, which we're just going to have to deal with at this point. But that still leaves us with a lot that coach can fix here and a lot that rests on his shoulders.

What really leaves me torn is the combination of our current national profile as a program, the current conference makeup, and the overall landscape of college basketball coaching. I hate using the "who can we get that's better" argument when talking about whether or not to replace our coach, but my feelings on it are bigger than simply the question of who is up next. I just don't share alleninxis' positive outlook on our hiring prospects or the attractiveness of the job. We can pay well, but I just don't think this is the destination job that we think (hope, pray, etc.) it is. We play in a second tier conference (in perception if not practice) with a much murkier future than a Power 5 job (again currently); despite the pay level and the new facility, the basketball program probably doesn't have the institutional (and certainly fan) support of a lot of other jobs; following a Thompson at Georgetown isn't going to be easy. Just ask Craig Esherick.

I'm really skeptical about our place in the overall hierarchy in college basketball right now. I see the high profile mid-major coaches staying put until they land the right job or just staying put period (Shaka Smart, Gregg Marshall, Archie Miller); I see our conference-mates struggle to hire top-level coaches (outside of Chris Mack, Jay Wright, and arguably Ed Cooley); I see even schools like UCLA have to settle for their third or fourth choice (and their fans still hate Alford; they flew a plane over Westwood just yesterday with a "Fire Alford" banner) and I just don't buy that we can do better. This leaves us with two options really: a low mid-major coach with limited experience recruiting at the level we expect or someone tightly affiliated at the program, both of which are fraught with their own risks.

If we go the "up and comer" route, I see two outcomes: a) they're successful and because of our current status in the overall college basketball, a Power 5 school snatches them away and we have to start all over again or b) they fail and we have to start all over again. If we go the "Hoya legend" or tight association with the program route, we're probably going with an unproven commodity and we're starting with a lot of the same issues we're currently facing. Maybe that's a pessimistic view and we become one of the places like Wichita State or Dayton or Xavier and ‘Nova that can keep an "up and comer" locked down if they're really successful, but this year has really shaken me of any notion that Georgetown is a destination job.

Others have referenced Thomas Boswell's WaPo live chat from the end of February, but it really resonated with me on this point:

Esherick's overall record was 103-74 or .582. He reached one Sweet 16 in his 5 1/2 years.

Now, ask yourself, how much better does JTIII have to be than Esherick for me to think he should keep the job. Better? Yes, I think so. How about 50 points better than .582? What about 75 points better than .582? Come on, decide.

In 12 years, JTIII's record at GU is .677, or 95 points better than Esherick. Esherick was 41-53 in the Big East. JTIII is .635.

But here's my two cents worth: GU had a unique Glory Era under JTII. It's probably never coming back. The Next Coach you'd get for the Hoyas would probably be closer to Esherick's level of ability than JTIII's.

I watch GU slog along at .500 this season and shake my head. Too bad. And I remember what a fast start JTIII had with the Final Four trip.

Including his years at Princeton, JTIII has more than 330 wins and a .664 record. I don't think he's any great college basketball coach. But I think he's a good one. "Very good?" I'm not that smart. But I doubt that the Hoyas would be able to do better with their next coach. And probably not as well.

Is this enough for me to say that we should definitely keep JTIII? Frankly, I still don't know. As I said before, I don't think he's realistically going anywhere this offseason one way or the other. But there are legitimate reasons to move on from JTIII this offseason more than any offseason before and I'm closer than I've ever been to not really caring who comes next despite how I think we stack up on a national level and the real risks involved with replacing a coach with a .635 winning percentage in the Big East. Closer, but not quite there yet.

Why couldn't we just win this season?