Oct. 29, 2007
Hoya Hoop Club Blog
"Generation Laughna" Muses on "McDonough Memories" During Open Practice!!
The Hoya Hoop Club's Open Practice last Sunday brought a certain nostalgia after almost 40 years of watching Georgetown basketball in McDonough Gymnasium. Last Sunday's event has been ably chronicled on the talk board of hoyasaxa.com, so I will direct the reader there for a recounting of the afternoon's activities. Rather, I will focus upon my memories of McDonough over the years as evoked during the Open Practice. I trust that the younger Hoya fans among you will indulge me this trip down memory lane, and I hope that, for older fans of the program, the journey will rekindle some old memories of your own.
By way of reintroduction, I am a 1972 graduate of the School of Foreign Service. Yes, that was the class that produced the 3-23 record that brought about the demise of Coach Jack Magee and led to the hiring of Coach John Thompson, Jr. During my undergraduate years on the Hilltop, I served as a Sports Editor and Columnist for The Hoya and also worked for the Sports Information Office. The highlight of Georgetown basketball during my college career was the appearance of the 1969-70 Hoyas in the NIT, where we fell to the Pete Maravich-led LSU Tigers by one point while holding the Pistol to below 20 points. The irony of the record of my senior class is that the class featured two of the all-time great players in Hoya history - - my generational namesake, Mike Laughna, a 6'07" power forward from St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, New Jersey, and Art White, a 6'05" guard from Archbishop Stepinac in Westchester County, New York. Of course, Coach Magee did not let Arthur, the team's most versatile and talented player, play during his senior season for some long ago forgotten reason. That, together with other "coach's decisions" during the 1971-72 season, brought the longest "winter of our discontent" to the Hilltop for Hoya Hoops.
Following graduation, I maintained my connection with Georgetown basketball through my years at Georgetown Law Center (J.D. 1976) and my career as a criminal tax practitioner with the Department of Justice's Tax Division (1978-2006). Thus, I have seen every Hoya team and player since the days of Charlie Adrion and Jim Higgins (1970). I was invited to join the board of the Hoya Hoop Club in early 1985, where I have served ever since. My most memorable experience occurred during the six-year period, 1999-2005, when I served three terms as President of the Hoya Hoop Club. For those who need reminding, this was, for the most part, the "interregnum" period of Georgetown basketball - - the era between Coach John Thompson, Jr. and his son, Coach John Thompson, III. It was an "interesting time" to say the least!! Nevertheless, we kept the Hoop Club together during that time, expanded the diversity of Club membership and leadership to include more women and younger alumni and friends of the program, and forged a strong partnership with both the Men's Basketball Office and the Athletic Department. My final year as President, before turning over the reins to current President, Alfred Bozzo, B '85, (whose leadership has brought the Hoop Club to heretofore unimagined heights) coincided with the first year of the current Coach Thompson's tenure. It has always been a pleasure and a privilege to be associated with the Men's Basketball Program at Georgetown!!
At all events, back to my Open Practice "memories of McDonough." As I gazed upon McDonough's back wall, I saw not the array of NBA jerseys for all Georgetown players beginning with the first Coach Thompson era, including the freshly minted Seattle Sonics number 22 jersey of Jeff Green, but rather an open stage area, where as an undergraduate, I saw the Four Tops as a freshman and, more remarkably, The Who, performing their rock opera "Tommy," for Homecoming 1969! Now, of course, the back wall separates McDonough's main basketball floor from the "little basketball court" behind it. In my mind's eye, I could also see McDonough's squash court, where the Hoyas locker room now resides. I can still remember entering the back door of McDonough for a game of squash back in the day!
Scanning the gym, my eyes fell upon the press box, where I can recall climbing the steps during the celebrated 1969-70 NIT season to prepare game summaries for the local Hoya beat reporters, including Kenneth Turan, now film critic of the L.A. Times, but then a sports reporter with the Washington Post, Steve Hershey and Andy Beyer, then both with the ill-fated Washington Star, and Ken Denlinger, of the Washington Post. Descending those same stairs, I can recall the old "balcony," where I watched many a Hoya Hoop contest over the years. This same balcony, which for several years housed the Athletic Department's weight room, now houses the offices of numerous Athletic Department employees.
Returning to the main McDonough floor, the memories flash before me with kaleidoscopic effect. Sophomore Charlie Adrion, C '70, pulls down 29 rebounds and scores 30 points in a 76-49 rout of rival George Washington in February 1968, the first Georgetown game I ever saw, while visiting Georgetown as a high school senior from Seton Hall Prep in South Orange, New Jersey. I recall watching Fourth New North freshman floor mate Mike Laughna consistently bring his best efforts to the Hoyas during his distinguished career on the Hilltop. I remember the demise of the Animal Section during the last home game of the 1969-70 season, when Mike Thornton, F '71, L '74, the student body president, and a group of freshmen women from the first class accepted into the College came in and simply sat down in the former bastion of Hoya male fandom.
Glimpsing the future of Georgetown basketball in Spring 1972, I remember then recently-hired Coach John Thompson, Jr. bringing his St. Anthony's Tonies, led by future Hoyas Merlin Wilson, Jonathan Smith, and Greg Brooks, all C '76, to McDonough for a Knights of Columbus Tournament victory over Mount Vernon from New York, led by Earl Tatum, who later played for Marquette and the Lakers. I vividly recall sitting in the portable bleachers behind the basket for a Holy Cross game in 1976 on my first date with my wife of now 30 years, Linda J. Morgan, L '76. I will always remember watching two of my all-time favorite Hoyas, Craig (Big Sky) Shelton and John (Ba Ba) Duren lead the Hoyas in the late seventies, culminating in what I believe should have been Georgetown's first NCAA tournament championship during the 1979-80 season.
Spanning the years, I recall seeing a spectacular freshman point guard from New York, Fred Brown, bring a style and level of play to the Hilltop that, at times, seemed to be above and beyond the levels of his teammates. And, at the same time, I recall Coach Thompson's voice resounding throughout McDonough as he addressed Freddie, not always in delicate fashion, as the Coach tried to rein in his young star!! I will never forget the Blue vs. Gray intra-squad scrimmage during Patrick Ewing, Sr.'s freshman year, when another freshman, Ralph Dalton, tore up his knee and was lost for the season. I remain convinced that, absent this injury, Big Ralph would have shattered every rebounding record in the Georgetown record books and been an NBA fixture for more than a decade. Later that season, before a more than capacity McDonough crowd, I remember Patrick leading Georgetown to a stunning rout of then-number 2 ranked Missouri and dominating Missouri's All American Center Steve Stipanovich. And the memories keep on flowing!
Even the Open Practice itself holds memories. I remember the Hoop Club's first Open Practice in 2001-01during the Esherick Era, when the Hoop Club switched its former pre-season Leavey Center brunch Q & A format with the Coach to an open practice with the Coach and team. (Coach Esherick, in my book, will always deserve kudos for his efforts to "open up" the program.) At that first Open Practice, after the members of the Junior Hoya Hoop Club gathered their autographs from their favorite Hoyas, a small group of Hoya fans gathered in the first stand of seats in the remaining upper balcony of McDonough Gym to observe a portion of practice. This is contrasted with last Sunday's crowds, which filled the center stand of bleacher seats and spilled over into the side sections. This is just a reminder that traditions, such as Open Practice, begin with, in Coach JTIII's words "baby steps!"
Finally, back to Center Court, I realize that this season will be the "last hurrah" for what I firmly believe is the single-most influential class in the history of Georgetown basketball! Watching Senior Captains "Big Roy," "Money" Wallace, "Heart and Soul" Tyler, and Patrick, Jr., I think of their classmate Jeff, who despite now playing with the NBA Sonics is forever linked to this class's legacy and Coach John Thompson, III, who came to Georgetown with them as freshmen and has guided them so capably over the past three years. Whatever this year's fortunes are for the Hoyas, this remarkable Class of 2008 has earned an indelible spot in my Hoya Hoop Heart! Thanks for the memories, McDonough!!
WE ARE GEORGETOWN!
Michael E. Karam
Proud Member of Generation Laughna