Georgetown Hoyas: Replacing John Thompson III Would Be Crazy

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08:  Head coach John Thompson III of the Georgetown Hoyas looks on from the sidelines against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the quarterfinals of the Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The buzzer had barely sounded on N.C. State's third-round victory over Georgetown on Sunday when the usual buzzards started swirling around the head of Hoyas coach John Thompson III.

Georgetown is "The Monet of Choke Artists," the Wall Street Journal proclaimed.

"You know what you're going to get with the Hoyas,"'s Jeff Goodman wrote. "You know exactly what they're going to do."

Since the second-seeded Hoyas lost to Steph Curry's 10th-seeded Davidson in the 2008 tournament, it's been the same story for Georgetown: Successful regular season turns into postseason nightmare.

And here, just after you thought the players exorcised those demons with Friday's win against Belmont, they lose to another double-digit seeded team. Again.

But before you go rush to call for the head of JTIII, take a second to pause and reflect on this season.

In the preseason, the Hoyas were picked to finish 10th in the Big East. They had just lost three of their core pieces in Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Julian Vaughn  to graduation, and they didn't receive a single preseason vote in either poll.

All this year's Hoyas did was lose to a not-so-bad Kansas team in Maui, beat then-ranked No. 8 Memphis two days later, hand No. 12 Alabama their first home loss in over a year, beat Memphis again, and hand a home loss to No. 4 Louisville to open Big East play.

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That was all before Jan. 1.

Henry Sims went from wasted talent to fringe NBA draft prospect this season, under JTIII's watch.
Henry Sims went from wasted talent to fringe NBA draft prospect this season, under JTIII's watch.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Point is, as Mike Wise of the Washington Post deserves credit for acknowledging, the Hoyas actually overachieved this season. They went from 10th in the Big East to 10th in the country, ending up with a No. 3 seed when there were preseason questions about whether or not they'd even make the NCAA tournament.

Some may take issue with JTIII's late-game management against N.C. State. That's missing the point.

In the postgame news conference, the coach said the play was originally drawn up to pound the ball to Henry Sims, the Hoyas' offensive focal point, down low. After a second Wolfpack player rotated to double cover Sims, he passed the ball to Otto Porter, who was open from the three-point line, down two with 20 seconds left.

Porter passed up the shot, opting to move in and take an off-balance jumper instead.

Can JTIII be blamed for a freshman player getting flustered in the most high-pressure, late-game situation he's faced all season?

Anyone questioning whether JTIII fits with Georgetown long-term needs to look past the NCAA tournament results the past few years and think of the grand scheme.

After an utterly depressing half-decade under Craig Esherick, Thompson restored Georgetown to national prominence. In his eight years at Georgetown, his team's recent NCAA performance and his transfer rate are the two worst knocks against him. (Compare that to Syracuse's Jim Boeheim this season)

Nerlens Noel, the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2012, has Georgetown as one of the final three schools he's considering (along with 'Cuse and Kentucky). Greg Monroe, the No. 6 recruit in 2008 based on RCSI, decided to forgo John Calipari's one-and-done show at Kentucky in favor of JTIII's system that catered to his passing ability.

With JTIII at the helm, Georgetown's been consistently churning out 20-win seasons (six of the past seven seasons), along with a back-to-back, regular-season Big East championship (something John Thompson Jr. never accomplished in his illustrious career). Throw in a Big East tournament title and two more Big East tournament finals appearances, and suddenly, JTIII's record doesn't look so shoddy, does it?

As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I got to experience this same phenomenon this past season with Andy Reid. When an "all-in" year resulted in an 8-8 record, "fire Reid" chants broke out at the stadium for the first time in years.

Only thing is, Vince Lombardi wasn't walking through that door for the Eagles if they fired Reid.

The same holds true for Georgetown.

You want to get rid of John Thompson III? Who are you replacing him with that's a better fit?

Tom Izzo isn't leaving Michigan State any time soon. Shaka Smart? Stan Heath, the reigning Big East coach of the year? (Kidding there.)

Unless the coaching equivalent of Peyton Manning decides to become a free agent—Phil Jackson to the Hoyas?—Georgetown needs to stick by JTIII just as much as the Eagles need to stick by Andy Reid.

If Noel decides to come to Georgetown, and a lineup featuring a healthy Noel, Porter, Greg Whittington and company can't get past the first weekend of the NCAA's in the next two years, it's then fair to question whether JTIII can ever get the Hoyas back to the promised land.

But, given the talent and poise this year's Hoya freshmen displayed, JTIII deserves a chance to coach these kids up for a few years.

That's what a Final Four appearance buys you when you run a clean program, like it or not.