It goes without saying that March 23, 2017 won’t ever be viewed as just a normal day on the Hilltop. As first reported by Casual Hoya and Ben Standig, John Thompson III is out as the Georgetown men’s basketball coach after 13 seasons. The university confirmed the change shortly thereafter.
What’s unknown is what happens next. Crazy as it sounds, somebody else will take over the program and presumably that person will not have the last name Thompson.
That person will conduct practices in the John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletic Center, a building so fresh the new car smell remains. That person will also walk past a statue of “Big John” every day. The facility, one 20 years overdue and so new JT3 barely had a chance to deploy its potential in recruiting, is both a reminder of the program’s storied history and a needed step into the 21st century. Crazy or not, somebody not named John Thompson III will take those next steps. Here’s an early look at the replacement scene.
* Multiple sources have told Casual Hoya and Ben Standig that Harvard coach Tommy Amaker is under strong consideration for the opening. Amaker, 51, is a Northern Virginia native, former star point guard for Duke and sports a resume that includes stops at Seton Hall and Michigan. His overall record during his 20 years as a head coach — the last 10 with the Ivy League program — is 369-244 with five NCAA Tournament appearances. Your mileage may vary about plucking a candidate from the Mike Krzyzewski coaching tree or whether Amaker represents a wow move for a program in need of a jolt after back-to-back losing seasons, but there’s plenty of appeal including recruiting ties to the area.
* According to another source, Texas coach Shaka Smart may have interest in the Big East program. Smart is coming off an 11-22 season with the Longhorns, but he was a major hire for Texas in 2015 after leading VCU to five straight NCAA Tournament appearances. VCU upset Georgetown en route to the 2011 Final Four.
* Nobody needs sources to recognize Patrick Ewing’s potential candidacy for this job. The first truly big time recruit under John Thompson Jr., Ewing led the Hoyas to three Final Four appearances and the 1984 national championship. The success also carried over into the program becoming a pop culture phenomenon with the imposing 7-foot center as the primary on-court image. Following a lengthy NBA career, Ewing put in work on the coaching front, serving as an NBA assistant since 2003.
Three primary questions with a Ewing candidacy:
- Is going with Ewing a break from the Thompson era, a break many vocal fans desire? Just to put some of the current connections into perspective, his son, Patrick Jr, coached under Thompson last season.
- If Ewing takes the job, will he be able to recruit? Certainly the name helps and the program has plenty to offer even with the recent downturn, but getting players to commit is tiring work and would be a new experience for the 54-year-old whose playing days ended long before the current ballers started their basketball journeys.
- Does Ewing want to give up his dream of becoming an NBA head coach? Shortly after the Georgetown news broke, Yahoo’s NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted “Patrick's remained close and loyal to Thompson family. He won't pursue job before significant thought.” That’s in part because he’s come close recently to landing an NBA job.
* No doubt Amaker and Ewing would have backers, though neither would be a bold hire, the kind Georgetown made in 1972 when it plucked a local High School coach named John Thompson for the job. Current High School coaches need not apply, but the point is the school could go in other directions beyond hitting iron off the tee. Dayton’s Archie Miller, Minnesota’s Richard Pitino, former Indiana coach Tom Crean and Rhode Island’s Danny Hurley are names often mentioned for most prominent openings. Jamion Christian, 34, just led Mount St. Mary’s to a second NCAA Tournament appearance in four seasons. For those wondering, no former Thompson assistants would make for obvious candidates.