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The Casual Awards: JTIII Edition

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Big East Championship - Final:  Pittsburgh v Georgetown Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

After the wheels fell off on this season, we never got to do another Casual Awards, because, well, we lost out after Marquette.

With Georgetown making the decision to move on from JTIII, we close the chapter on his tenure the only way we know how…because we’re a one trick pony.

For a quick stroll down memory lane of all the awesome wins (and devastating losses) Georgetown enjoyed/endured during the JTIII era, please refer to this article which hasn’t been updated since 2015:

http://www.casualhoya.com/2015/2/2/7962663/georgetown-hoyas-most-memorable-wins-most-devastating-losses-in-the-jt3-era

For JTIII, in lieu of a Senior Day send-off, this is your tribute. We’ll try not to get emotional.

On with the awards....

The Outcoaching Coach K on National Television Award:

JTIII.

We remember meaningful dates. For Georgetown fans, January 21, 2006 is one of those dates that will never be forgotten. In only his second season after taking over a program that had seemingly hit rock bottom, JTIII’s young but efficient Hoyas took on the #1 ranked and undefeated Duke Blue Devils. Just two years removed from being blown out by 19 at the MCI Center, in a game which wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated, the Hoyas put on a dazzling display of backdoor cuts and precision passing to turn back the undefeated Duke Blue Devils, led by J.J. Redick’s 41 points, and put Georgetown back on the national radar.

It was awesome.

The DSR Award for Just Bringing it Every Damn Night:

JTIII.

From 2006-2007 through 2012-2013, JTIII led the Hoyas to a top ten ranking (for at least some portion of each season) every damn year.

During this seven-year stretch, the only other team to match this level of consistency was Kansas. Yes, it’s true. Not even Duke or Carolina were as consistent during the regular season.

Georgetown’s regular season success led to eight NCAA tournament berths in thirteen seasons, six of which were high seeds (three 2 seeds, two 3 seeds, one 4 seed). Given the current state of the program, would you take that right now? That’s essentially what he did.

Yes, the postseason flameouts are well documented. They only hurt because of the six months prior every season. JTIII made an awful lot of winter months feel so damn good.

The Colin Kaepernick Award for Not Backing Down from Social Commentary:

JTIII.

Although he wasn’t nearly the cultural icon that his father was during the 80s, JTIII didn’t shy away from social commentary. In the waning days of 2014, when the country was divided over incidents of police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, the Hoyas decided to make a statement of their own by wearing "I Can’t Breathe" shirts during warm-ups before their matchup with Kansas.

Some coaches may have shied away from such displays and requested that players not partake in this sign of unity. But not JTIII, and not in our nation’s capital.

From an interview conducted by Sports Illustrated:

http://www.si.com/college-basketball/2014/12/15/hoop-thoughts-georgetown-i-cant-breathe-t-shirts

"It sounds like a cliché, but the job is about more than basketball," he said. "We are an educational institution. People forget that these are 17-to-20-year-olds who are in college that are learning. Coaches are teachers. This is our job."

Amen.

(By the way, for those of you who haven’t visited the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, you should. The above pic is enshrined in a video montage in the sports wing of the museum.)

The "If You Build it, They Will Come" Award:

JTIII.

A true story with names withheld for anonymity:

Big man recruit X was between Georgetown and another school in his final two. Georgetown ticked every single box for him -- location, academics, JTIII’s track record of putting guys in the NBA -- it was all there.

One of the deciding factors for this recruit was the fact that, if he wanted to work on his shooting between classes, he couldn’t always do it at Georgetown.

When John Thompson III arrived on the Hilltop in 2004, our facilities were atrocious. We had Yates and McDonough, just like always, and that was it. McDonough’s weight training facilities were famously outdated, and if a men’s basketball player wanted to put in some extra time practicing, he could cross his fingers and hope that no one was using the court at McDonough, which the players shared with the women’s basketball and volleyball teams. Otherwise, you could sometimes catch them at Yates, hoping there weren’t pickup games occupying all of the courts there.

Year after year, JTIII said that to be a first-rate program, we needed first-rate facilities. And year after year, he would beg the administration, the university and alumni for a way to fix the program’s decaying athletic infrastructure.

Rather than merely complaining, JTIII did something about it - Recruit X, among others, gave him the political capital he needed for it to happen. With the university’s blessing, and Lee Reed’s stellar assistance, JTIII called everyone he needed to call and finally got this project across the finish line.

The result is a beautiful state of the art practice facility that bears his family’s name.

Take all the wins and losses out of the equation -- the Thompson Center alone means that JTIII leaves the men’s basketball program in better shape than when he inherited it.

The Tom Izzo Award for Always Playing a Challenging Schedule:

JTIII.

Did you ever see St. Leo’s or Hawaii-Hilo on the schedule during JTIII’s reign? Nope. To his credit, he always put together challenging, thoughtful schedules so that "SOS" was never a knock against Georgetown under his watch. Unlike his father and Craig Esherick (who enjoyed beating up on MEAC schools), as well as guys like Jim Boeheim and Jamie Dixon, JTIII always put his teams through rigorous schedules. These games were tough, and sometimes perhaps a little too tough for our young teams, but the fans (and the NCAA selection committee) were almost always pleased.

Good on III for not backing down from anyone, and for bulking up our Tourney numbers in the process of doing so.

The Not Jim Boeheim Award for Not Running a Scandalicious Program of Failed Drug Tests, Plagiarized Papers, Illegal Benefits, Sexual Assault, Theft and General Chicanery:

JTIII.

It seems weird to give someone an award for not being Jim Boeheim, and yet here we are.  Thank you, JTIII, for running a clean, scandal-free program for which we could all be proud.

Look at the long list of programs that have been sanctioned by the NCAA in the last 13 years.  And now look at Georgetown.

The JTIII Award for Putting Syracuse in its Place Award:

JTIII.

It doesn’t matter whether we were going through good days or bad, throughout JTIII’s thirteen-year tenure, we could always rely on him to deliver a top-notch coaching performance against our most hated rival.

We beat Syracuse when they were the #1 seed in the BET in 2010.

We beat Syracuse when Chris Wright, Austin Freeman, and Julian Vaughn delivered JT3’s first win at the Carrier Dome during their senior year, and you could tell it meant something to everyone.

We beat Syracuse when they retired Carmelo Anthony’s number.

[SwordOfBrunner note: LOOK AT HOW FIRED UP THE COMRADE IS.]

We beat Syracuse during the final Big East regular season game in the old conference.

We beat Syracuse when Jim Boeheim was home alone and Mike Hopkins was on the sidelines.

We even beat Syracuse this past season, when we seemingly couldn’t beat anyone.

The Andy Dufresne Award for Offering Us Hope:

JTIII.

Perhaps the best compliment we can give JTIII is that he always left us feeling hopeful about the team’s prospects. In the last thirteen seasons, we felt cautiously optimistic about the team’s chances every damn year.

Take a second to think about this and you’ll realize that you felt way more delusional than cynical every October.

  • In 2004-05, we were beginning the start of the JTIII era.
  • In 2005-06, we were returning an exciting core of sophomores and still had Bowman and Cook to provide veteran leadership.
  • In 2006-07, we were coming off of a Sweet 16.
  • In 2007-08, we had most of the pieces returning after a Final Four run.
  • In 2008-09, we had Wright, Freeman, Summers and Monroe.
  • In 2009-10, we had most of those players and we were hungry.
  • In 2010-11, Wright and Freeman were seniors and Jason Clark was ready to run.
  • In 2011-12, we had just finished brawling in China and had an exceptional freshmen class led by Otto and Whitt, plus an emergent Henry Sims.
  • In 2012-13, we were ready to dominate with Otto, Whitt and Markel.
  • In 2013-14, we returned a solid core, plus Josh Smith.
  • In 2014-15, we had DSR, Jabril, the Comrade, and an exciting group of freshmen was about to start.
  • In 2015-16, DSR was miraculously returning and we hoped that guys like Peak and Copeland would make the sophomore leap.
  • And in 2016-17, we had perhaps our deepest squad of the JTIII era, which included Rodney Pryor and Jagan Mosely.

We honestly thought our team every year had the potential to go to the Sweet 16, and there was rarely a night when we thought "we have no chance to beat this team". We liked feeling that way.

Unfortunately, hope is a dangerous thing. It can drive a man insane. And when hopes were dashed — not in March but in November — in these last two seasons, many believed it was time to turn the page.

Still, maybe this is Esherick PTSD, but we really liked experiencing that October optimism every season.

We hope it comes back soon.

The Andy Dufresne Award for Crawling Through a River of of Shit and Coming out Clean on the Other Side:

JTIII.

The day of the dismissal, someone in an email thread wrote:

"As someone that has been vociferous about his removal...I feel icky."

In the waning weeks of JTIII’s tenure, his name got dragged through the mud because he had the audacity to want to fix a [bad] situation he felt responsible for, and not walk away from his dream job, and a guaranteed multi-million dollar contract…"icky" is an understatement.

[SwordofBrunner Note: also, this would be me if you told me I had to walk away from $3,000]

We’ve kind of said this a lot, but thinking it was time for a change (a position on which reasonable people might disagree) did not have to come with the retro narrative that JTIII was like Helen Keller on the sidelines ever since Jeff Green left for the NBA, or that he did not hold himself accountable or care about the program or Georgetown University.

If you thought the administration was to blame for its lack of transparency, using a seemingly decent man who cares more about Georgetown basketball than any of us ever will as a whipping boy...yeah man, it felt icky.

Many people are glad we turned the page. Some aren’t (NYHoya is sheepishly raising his hand). But the trajectory of the program pretty much necessitated it, as JTIII’s dismissal almost became a self-fulfilling prophesy after a cascade of bad press and negativity.

But we don’t think JTIII ever felt entitled to this job. His predecessor, Craig Esherick, in response to similar criticism, without any of the success that JTIII could have used as currency, doubled down on his tenure and said that he wasn’t going anywhere.

JTIII did none of that. To do so would have been completely out of character.

Hopefully his successor carries himself the same exact way.

The Chris Wright Heart of a Champion Award:

JTIII.

Inheriting a program in shambles, JTIII voluntarily walked into the large shadow cast by his father and figured out a way -- his own way -- to thrive.

JTIII was hired back in 2004 because he was John Thompson Jr.’s son, but also because he was a damn good coach in his own right. But the one piece of this origin story that often gets forgotten is that JTIII grew up with Georgetown in his blood since the day he was born. JTIII went to the same games, rooted for the same Hoyas, understood Georgetown and its traditions, and knew more than most why this program mattered, both for the university and for the city itself.

So when JTIII won, and when he lost, it was personal. He felt the passion and the longing and the tradition more than any other person in that role could have. No one had to explain to him why the games against Syracuse were more important than others. Even in the last four years, when things certainly didn’t meet expectations, JTIII understood all of that and he was as frustrated as we were.

From day one, JTIII knew all about Georgetown basketball. When we won, it was special. When we lost, it hurt. And no one cared as much as he did. So whether you want to praise the victories or lament the losses, the one thing you cannot do is question his heart. As painful as the last few months have been, no one has shouldered the brunt of that pain more than JTIII himself.

You’re all heart, Coach.

The John Thompson Jr. Statue in Front of the Practice Facility Award for Being the Greatest Statue of All Time:

[We dare one of you to tell JT2 that Crocs are lame.]

JTIII.

After our historic 2007 win against North Carolina in the Elite Eight, John Thompson the elder, despite his own national championship and 596 victories, proclaimed, "This is the greatest thing that could happen to me." He said that sharing this moment with his son was better than receiving another statue in his own life. He looked over to his son and the Hoyas celebrating another run to the Final Four and said, "There is my statute, right there."

Turns out, in addition to the Final Four banner, there would be an actual statue eventually...but how was Pops to know?

The Yell of all the Yells Award:

JTIII.

Shortly after that 2007 victory propelled us to the Final Four...

NYHoya wrote a meandering e-mail that ended with this:

"The game was over. The crowd filed downstairs and watched in awe. To say it was surreal would be a vast understatement. It was amazing. It was shocking. I felt like Rudy's dad (‘This is the greatest sight these eyes have ever seen.’). Amidst the commotion, escalating chants of "J-T-III" could be heard throughout the arena. A perfect cheer for a coach who revitalized a program, made us all realize that even when you seem down and out, even when you feel like you should just give up, there's always the hope of a perfect finish. We've waited many years for this moment. And finally, another Thompson has brought us back.

In 1984, minutes after the Hoyas defeated Houston to win the 1984 national championship, Big John Thompson took his team into the locker room and began a ‘We are… Georgetown!’ chant.

Twenty-three years later, his son grabbed a microphone and beckoned the entire Georgetown community to join in his favorite cheer. We are Georgetown.

It was as if the moment was bigger than any team's success. It represented a victory for our university, for our school, for ourselves. I once thought the chant was silly. I now think it's special. Screaming that chant made all of us feel like we were a part of this team's magical run. We cut down the nets in New York. We cut down the nets in New Jersey. And now, we're marching on to Georgia to cut down some more. We are Georgetown. Yeah we are."

"Twenty-five years from now you will still hear the echo." – Lenn Robbins, NY Post

Ten years later, we still hear it. I’m sure we will in 15. And another 25 after that, if we’re still alive.

Thank you, JTIII.

We’ll tell your story.

P.S. - so will these guys:

THANK YOU!!! #MyCoach

A post shared by Otto Porter Jr. (@ottodayporter22) on

Thank You for Everything! #MYCoach #H4L

A post shared by Rodney Pryor (@r_d_p11) on

Thank You Coach!!! #H4L #mycoach #grassaintalwaysgreener

A post shared by All Work No play (@pro_dj20) on

THANK YOU!!! #MyCoach

A post shared by JG (@unclejg8) on

Thank you! #MYCoach

A post shared by Patrick Ewing Jr (@pewingjr6) on