Auld Lang Syne - A Salute to Two All Time Providence Greats!!
Dec. 31, 2011
2011 draws to a close on Saturday as the No. 12 ranked Hoyas, fresh off a “yummy” 71-68 victory over the previously undefeated No. 4 ranked Louisville Cardinals at their new KFC Yum Center, face the Providence Friars. Watching Cardinal coach Rick Pitino on Thursday, I could not help thinking about the 1987 NCAAs, when a younger Pitino and his 3-point shooting protégé Billy Donovan led the Providence Friars to an upset victory over Georgetown’s “Reggie and the Miracles” team to advance to the Final Four. With that my mind skips to Michael Smith and the 1994 Big East Championship final where the Friars defeated the Hoyas 74-64 to capture their only Big East tournament championship.
Enough with the negativity!
But with a New Year on the horizon, I will focus on the good that came from Providence to the Hoyas - - legendary Hall of Fame Georgetown Coach John R. Thompson, Jr., (PC ’64) - - who remains one of the all time great Friar hoopsters.
Coach John Thompson, Jr.’s playing career at Providence from 1961-64 was as memorable as his coaching career at Georgetown. He played for legendary Coach Joe Mullaney and Dave Gavitt was his Assistant Coach. In each of his three playing seasons at Providence, Big John averaged a double – double in points and rebounds and his numbers improved each season. In all, he totaled 31 double-doubles during his career. As a sophomore, he scored 12.3 points per game and garnered 11.3 rebounds. As a junior, his numbers improved to 18.9 points and 14.0 rebounds, and he helped lead the Friars to the NIT Championship, being named to the All-Tournament team. Finally, as a senior, co-Captain Thompson averaged 26.2 points per game and 14.5 rebounds. For his career, the All-American Thompson averaged 19.2 points per game and 13.4 rebounds. His 19.2 career average is fourth all time behind Walker, Ernie DeGregorio and Marvin Barnes. Thompson’s name is still written all over the Providence record book. His 26.2 points per game scoring average as a senior is still the second highest scoring average behind Jimmy Walker’s 30.4 points per game average in 1966-67. During his senior season, his 681 points represented 33.7% of the teams total and for his career, he scored 24.7% of his team’s points. He scored 43 points in a game against Fairfield in 1963 and scored 30 or more points on six other occasions! Other than Marvin Barnes and Jim Hadnot, Thompson is the Friars all-time leading rebounder, gathering more caroms than the likes of Otis Thorpe, Michael Smith, or Ryan Gomes. He had six games in which he pulled down 20 or more rebounds. In short, he was the kind of inside force that he loved to recruit at Georgetown (although his scoring averages would suggest that his Friars coaches did not restrict him offensively as he may have done with his big men.) Thus, I am grateful to the Friars for having produced our legendary Coach - - the first Coach John Thompson.
In this end-of-year piece, I also thank Providence for giving the Big East and, thus, Georgetown Hall of Famer Dave Gavitt, the first Commissioner of the Big East who died earlier this year. Gavitt was one of the true legends and geniuses of the collegiate game who together with his comrades in arms Frank Rienzo from Georgetown and Jake Crouthamel from Syracuse foresaw the lucrative financial potential in forming and building the Big East and aligning it with at the time a fledgling cable sports network ESPN, bringing the Big East’s Big Monday into homes nationwide. I can still remember Gavitt doing play-by-play on Big East games of the week during the early days of the Conference! Gavitt also was a great coach and athletic director at Providence and was named to coach the United States Olympic Men’s Basketball team in 1980. He was a true visionary who will be sorely missed. (I found it ironic that on the day that Commissioner Gavitt died, Syracuse, a founding member and Pittsburgh, an early member, announced their desertion from the Big East to join the ACC!! The good Lord knew that Gavitt did not need to be around for this treachery!) May this giant of a man rest in peace!!
Providence (11-3) comes into the Verizon Center fresh off a 91-67 spanking by the St. John;s Redmen on Tuesday in New York. The Friars bring a new coach Ed Cooley, formerly the head man at Fairfield for the past five seasons,, but fortunately for the Hoyas the Friars no longer have MarShon Brooks, who almost singlehandedly topped the Hoyas last season with a 43 point performance and is now with the New Jersey Nets in the NBA. Assuming no letdown from Wednesday’s victory over Louisille and continued outstanding team play, I look for the Hoyas to prevail and run their season record to 12-1 and 2-0 in the Big East.
Happy Hoya New Year to everyone!
WE ARE GEORGETOWN!!
Michael Karam, F’72, L’76, L’81
Proud Member of Generation Laughna