The Blue & Gray Forever
Georgetown University and a Jesuit education are about traditions. Before attending Georgetown University I was a student at Georgetown Prep. Prep had been part of GU until the early 20th century when it moved to its present campus in North Bethesda, Maryland. The first graduates of GU were also graduates of Georgetown Prep. At Prep, I studied Latin in the Jesuit tradition. The Jesuits are one of the largest orders in the Catholic Church founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish nobleman. The Jesuits are guided by the Seven Principles of Ignatian Spirituality, e.g. AMDG and Cura Personalis. Other traditions are "Men and Women for Others," and "Mens Sana in Corpore Sano," (a sound mind in a sound body). At Prep I often heard about other traditions at GU. I also began to hear about coach John Thompson, Jr. building a basketball powerhouse on the Hilltop with players such as Al Dutch, Mike Frazier, and Derrick Jackson. They had made the NIT and NCAA tournaments during that time. At my graduation from Prep, a new President at GU, Father Timothy Healey, gave a stirring commencement address. Father Healey would be my President at GU and would help move Georgetown from an outstanding regional Catholic University to international prominence. His speech is still a model for me today of both eloquence and delivery. He was a great linguist, and student of Shakespeare. I still remember him telling us that any college education worth anything would make you challenge every belief that you had. When I first entered GU I attended a reception at the Alumni House for students from the Washington, D.C. area. I still remember walking from there to the Healey building and seeing the statue of John Carroll, the founder of the Jesuit order in the United States and Georgetown University.
During my formative years as a young basketball player and fan, I attended Morgan Wooten's Washington Metropolitan Area Basketball Camp at St. John's College High School on Military Road. At the camp I got to see many players like Adrian Dantley, Austin Carr, Bill Bradley, Wes Unseld and Pistol Pete Maravich. However, the highlight for me was always the frequent visits by long-time Washingtonian and legendary former Boston Celtic coach Red Auerbach. Red also did small half-time segments for the NBA then called "Red on Roundball." Red was always entertaining and would share with us much of the history and traditions of both Washington basketball and the NBA. One of his former players, was a backup to Bill Russell, and is one of two hall of fame coaches to coach men's basketball at Georgetown University: John Thompson, Jr. (The other Hall of Fame coach was Elmer Ripley.) Coach Thompson has always been very complimentary of his former coach. Red was a frequent attendee at Georgetown games, until his death this past year. I was glad to see coach JT III bring the current Hoya team to pay their respects to Coach Auerbach at his passing. I can still remember Red on TV lighting up a cigar and analyzing Georgetown's upcoming championship game against the University of Houston in 1984.
My time at Georgetown (Generation Ewing) was an exciting time that brought the formation of the BIG EAST Conference and three appearances in the National Championship final game including the National Championship in 1984. Georgetown was known as "The Beast of the East" back then. ESPN and Dick Vitale were just starting out. Georgetown would win the first BIG EAST tournament and would dominate the tournament in New York's Madison Square Garden through the 1980's. Everyone around the country was wearing Georgetown jackets and other apparel. We were the team that everyone wanted to beat. They would also fear us. I still remember one player upon discovering that they would play Georgetown in the NCAA tournament, saying that he was having nightmares about playing Georgetown and Patrick Ewing. Our T-shirts would say: "Hoya Paranoia--Catch It."
As we approach the 100th anniversary celebration of Georgetown Basketball I have had a chance to reflect on all of the traditions at Georgetown. John Reagan's web site < href= "www.hoyasaxa.com"> www.hoyasaxa.com contains a wonderful history project where I have learned a great deal about the other generations of Georgetown Basketball. I am very proud to know that our men's basketball alumni include not only NBA stars like Pat Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Allen Iverson, Dikembe Mutombo, and Eric "Sleepy" Floyd, but numerous other famous men like former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and congressman Henry Hyde to name just a few. John Thompson's deflated basketball is a constant reminder to our student-athletes about the importance of their education.
When I look back at my time as a Hoya basketball fan, I see the traditions of excellence continuing. Coach JT III has many of the same qualities as his famous father, and yet he is very different in many respects. Both understand the big picture for student-athletes, and have a great appreciation for the importance of teamwork. I still remember meeting JT III when he came to Georgetown. It was difficult for me knowing that the new coach was a few years younger than I was. Most of my life the older Thompson had been the only coach I had known. Both men grew up in Washington, D.C. but in very different times. John Thompson, Jr. was a star at Carroll High School during segregation in D.C., prior to the death of Martin Luther King. Coach Thompson would later star at Providence College and for a few years with the Boston Celtics. Washington, D.C. and the world were very different at that time. JT III was a graduate of Gonzaga High School and Princeton University. He would have great success at Princeton his alma mater before taking the job on the Hilltop. The elder Thompson would sometimes have a practice where no basketballs would be used. The players would learn about the importance of moving without the ball, and defense was always first. If you watch JT III's team practice, you will still see GU's intensity on defense. However, you also see the emphasis on 3-point shooting, screens, back door cuts, etc. The "Princeton offense" has truly become the "Georgetown offense."
At the recent Georgetown-Pittsburgh game, I found myself staying in the same hotel as the Georgetown team. I am so pleased that JT III has kept some traditions like having his players wear a jacket and tie on all road trips. I am proud of the way other teams always comment on how well we are dressed. It was a great thrill for me to see the team. After a tough loss it was nice to see Coach Broadus wave acknowledgement to me. It is nice to see how he appreciates the support of the alumni and other fans at the games. I was further touched to have Coach Robert Burke and JT III himself come down to the lobby to say hello for a minute that evening. It was difficult for me to know what to say after a tough loss to an outstanding Pittsburgh team. It reminded me of Coach Thompson insisting that his team stay and watch Villanova get their trophies after the 1985 championship game. I was proud then to see our players show such class and dignity during one of the most difficult times for any athlete. It is often said that our dominating team in the 1980's was built on the will of one man, John Thompson, Jr. I still remember Dick Vitale saying that in his opinion the program would die with the retirement of Coach Thompson. It is great to see that he was indeed wrong. Coach JT III is building a Program of Excellence that will last forever--Georgetown Forever. His visit with me, his relationship with his players and the student body are examples of what a genuine person he and his coaching staff are. Today's Georgetown players are heir to a proud tradition.
I cannot wait until the Marquette game and the 100th anniversary Gala. It is a once in a lifetime chance to see and pay respect to the many members of the Georgetown basketball team that have brought such enjoyment to my life. Whenever I walk up the Hill to Healey circle and see the statue of John Carroll and the Healey building I get as excited as that first time I came to Georgetown as a student. I can still hear and feel the crowd that gathered after our NCAA championship win in 1984 over Houston. I can still hear Coach Thompson making that famous speech saying:
"I told you last year that if I die and I can't go to heaven, then they can take my body back to Georgetown. Well, I'm here to tell you that I ain't dead yet."
-Coach John Thompson Jr., 1985
I long for the day that we will gather on campus again to honor another championship team at Georgetown.
"The National Championship flag will fly in this building."
-Coach John Thompson Jr., HBO, 2005
I know that we are again becoming a premier program in college basketball. In this the 100th anniversary of Georgetown Basketball year, we know that we have an authentic one of a kind program of great student-athletes. Names like: Laughna, Adrion, Barry, Gigante, Hyde, Jones, Tagliabue, Riley, Jackson, Escherick, Duren, Shelton, Floyd, Mourning, Mutombo, Blaylock, Martin, Dalton, Iverson, Brown, Wingate, McDonald, Burton, Sweetney, Jackson, McDonald, Tillmon, Smith, Bowman, Cook and Williams to name a few are part of our on-going tradition of excellence. In reading my partner John Hawkes blogs I am glad to see that I am not the only one who has certain traditions, e.g. wearing certain neckties the day of an important game, or wearing my #33 Patrick Ewing jersey, my #3 Allen Iverson jersey, my Hoya game shorts, or my Reggie and the Miracles hat. President Al Bozzo often accuses me of having more Hoya apparel than anyone on the planet. I am not sure if that is true. Other traditions of mine include hitting the Tombs, shooting free throws in front of McDonough, and getting a sandwich from the world famous Wisemillers.
I want to thank Al Bozzo (Generation Ewing), Mike Karam (Generation Laughna), and everyone on the Hoya Hoop Club Board for inviting me to serve the last few years on the Hoya Hoop Club Board. It has been a truly wonderful experience that has brought me to a new level being a Georgetown Basketball fan. In the Jesuit tradition of Men and Women for Others and Cura Personalis it has allowed me the privilege of serving others. I want to also thank many of the new members of the Hoya Hoop Club Board for this experience also, especially my road trip partners Chris Lucey and Payne Miller both from Generation Burton, and my fellow blog writer John Hawkes. We just got a big win at Louisville last night. We now have the Marquette game next. There are no easy games in the Big East. You have to come ready to play every night.
I hope to see many of you at the 100th anniversary Gala.
We are Georgetown!
The Blue and Gray Forever!
Dr. Thomas A. Wong (C'82)
Asst Vice-President Hoya Hoop Club