WASHINGTON -- John Thompson III won't have to make a name
for himself at Georgetown. "Pops" took care of that long ago.
Ready to take on the pressure of living up to the legacy of his
Hall of Fame father, Thompson III was hired Tuesday to coach the
Hoyas back to national prominence.
"I am John Thompson's son. I have been John Thompson's son for
38 years. I'm pretty comfortable being John Thompson's son," said
Thompson III, the coach at Princeton since 2000. "The pressure
that comes along with that -- no one's going to put more pressure on
me than myself."
The elder Thompson coached the Hoyas for 27 years, turning a
little-known program into a perennial national powerhouse. With
Patrick Ewing at center, Georgetown made three appearances in the
NCAA title game in the 1980s, winning the championship in 1984.
Thompson resigned in 1999 and now works as a TV analyst, and the
Hoyas haven't been the same since. His longtime assistant, Craig
Esherick, couldn't live up to the Thompson standard and was fired
last month after going 103-74.
Attendance sagged, the program lost money, and the Hoyas made
just one NCAA tournament appearance under Esherick. They lost their
last nine games this season, and the 13-15 record was Georgetown's
worst in 31 years.
Now comes Thompson III, whose name alone will draw immediate
comparisons to the campus legend. The elder Thompson -- whom
Thompson III calls "Pops" -- sat proudly in the front row at
Tuesday's news conference.
"He is his son -- that holds a lot," guard Ashanti Cook said. "Big John's son. I think we'll be successful with him."
The elder Thompson declined interview requests, saying through a
university spokeswoman that he wanted the day to belong to his son.
The former coach also did not appear as usual on a local radio talk
A handful of coaches have succeeded their fathers in Division I
basketball, but the only true comparison for Thompson III is Joey
Meyer, who immediately followed his father, Ray, at DePaul in 1984.
The younger Meyer was widely considered a good coach, but his
career was overshadowed by the fact that he never achieved the
success of his father.
The younger Thompson, 38, comes with a successful track record.
He led Princeton to a 68-42 record over four seasons, including Ivy
League titles and NCAA tournament berths in 2000-01 and 2003-04.
The Tigers went 20-8 this season, losing to Texas in the first
round of the NCAA tournament.
But Thompson III will have to change his recruiting approach at
Georgetown. Although both schools stress academics, the Hoyas like
to require both Ivy League grades and Big East talent. University
President John DeGioia said he chose Thompson III in part because
he "wins fairly with integrity," but DeGioia also listed a
national championship as a goal.
While Thompson III grew up on Georgetown's campus, he spent his
adult life at Princeton, where he played for the Tigers before
becoming an assistant under Hall of Famer Pete Carril. He said his
style could incorporate influences from both schools, although the
methodical Princeton offense would be a challenge to run in the Big
"Maybe you see a little bit of Pops in there, and maybe a
little bit of Coach [Carril]," Thompson III said.