Coach John Thompson III Fired

Well, it happened.

After considerable buzz, rumor and debate, the House of Representatives—as expected by many observers—decided to delay its vote on its legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare until Friday.

This was not fake news, and neither was the big news—after considerable buzz, rumor and debate— that John Thompson III, the longtime basketball coach with a legendary name, was told by Georgetown University that he would not be asked to return next year.

The buzz had hit fever pitch after the Hoyas fell in the opening round of the Big East Tournament against arch rival St. John’s, 74-73.  The result left the Hoyas out in the cold and at a low ebb, and it was a bittersweet event that said something about the status of the conference itself.  The tight game came at the hands of a team coached by Chris Mullen, a legendary player at St. John’s during the heyday of the conference as a national power, and the reign of Hall of Fame basketball coach and towering legend John Thompson, Jr., the father of John Thompson III.

It was clear—and had become clearer with each game this season and faltering previous seasons—that the program was in trouble.  Not only did the Hoyas lose to St. John’s, they ended up with a 14-18 record, their second such season in a row, and failed to make the NCAA tournament.

In a town where politics and legislative battles often grab the big headlines, it’s hard to remember that there was a time that the hoop fate and adventures of the Hoyas were big deals under both Thompsons, but especially under the senior Thompson, who had four years in which his teams with stars like Patrick Ewing went to the Final Four three times, winning a national title and losing two heartbreakers to North Carolina and Villanova.

Basketball fans, like most sports fans who follow their favorite teams (Cub fans are an exception) can be unforgiving, not to mention the powers that be, and even more jock talkers and sports writers, whose principal job often appears to be to make coach hiring and firing decisions for general managers, athletic directors or university presidents.  The equivalent of “Lock her up” in the sports world is often “Fire him!” from the back benches of press.

That’s what Georgetown University President Jack DeGioia ended up doing today, with considerable regret. “It is with profound regret and deep appreciation that I informed John Thompson III this morning that the university will no longer be retaining his services as head men’s basketball coach,” DeGioia said.

In terms of longevity and success, John Thompson III’s problem wasn’t that he failed to win—he had 13 years at the helm, with a winning record of 278-151, had a Final Four appearance in 2008 and took his teams to the NCAA tournament eight times.  It was more of a matter of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately.  It was plain to see that the Hoyas had fallen on hard times and couldn’t live on past glory alone, especially as it lost a number of its players, including guard L.J. Peak who is not coming back for his senior year.

DeGioia praised the Thompson name and tradition—“Our tradition of excellence as a university will forever be inextricably linked with John and his family,” he said. “I remain deeply grateful for all that he had done on behalf of Georgetown University.”

In a statement, Thompson said “I am grateful to fans of Georgetown for their tremendous support. Georgetown basketball has been a part of my life since 1972 which makes the moment even more impactful, but I look forward to my next chapter.”

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