Thompson expected to leave Hoyas

`Major' announcement, is due today

coach may retire or resign

January 08, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Georgetown officials have called a 10 a.m. news conference for today at McDonough Gymnasium to make what a school spokesman called "the most major announcement here in the past 15 years," leading to speculation that basketball coach John Thompson will announce either his resignation or retirement.

The announcement comes in the midst of the Hoyas' worst start in their 20-year history in the Big East -- they are 0-4 for the first time -- and at one of the lowest points in Thompson's 27-year career at the Washington school. With a 7-6 overall record, Thompson is four wins shy of reaching the 600-victory mark.

Thompson was unavailable for comment last night, and sports information director Bill Shapland declined to discuss what would be announced.

But Charles Freeman, father of recruit Courtland Freeman, told the Associated Press last night that Thompson called yesterday to say he is resigning.

"He just decided he was going to step down from coaching for personal reasons," Charles Freeman said. "I think he was going to be in the head office. He wasn't leaving the school."

Charles Freeman said assistant Craig Esherick would take over as coach.

Courtland Freeman, a 17-year-old forward from Myrtle Beach, S.C., said he received the news via a phone call from Ronny Thompson, the coach's son and an assistant with the team.

Temple coach John Chaney told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he talked with Thompson yesterday, "pleading with him" to stay.

"What I know is very little. But I can tell you that Nolan Richardson and George Raveling, both of them are pleading with him, too," Chaney said.

It isn't known whether Thompson, 57, is retiring for health reasons or whether his resignation is effective immediately or will take place after the season ends. It is also not known whether Thompson could take an NBA job, considering that the announcement comes as the lockout is ending.

Thompson has entertained offers from professional basketball in the past, most recently from the Denver Nuggets five years ago and before that from the New York Knicks. He also briefly discussed a position at Nevada-Las Vegas after Jerry Tarkanian was fired.

In more than a quarter of a century as coach of the Hoyas, Thompson took the program from being a doormat for other Eastern powers to dominance in the 1980s with players such as Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo as well as Dunbar stars Reggie Williams and David Wingate.

Georgetown reached the NCAA championship game against North Carolina in 1982, losing on a 17-foot jump shot by Michael Jordan and an errant pass by Freddie Brown in the closing seconds. Two years later, the Hoyas beat Akeem Olajuwon and Houston for the title. They lost in the final in 1985 when Big East rival Villanova beat them with a near-perfect second half.

Since then, Georgetown has never advanced past the Elite Eight, reaching the regional finals in 1987, 1989 and 1996. The Hoyas finished 16-15 last season, their worst record since Thompson's second team went 13-13. Much of the program's downturn was attributed to Thompson's lack of success in recruiting.

The announcement comes at a time when Thompson has been trying to put a positive spin on his recruiting woes, pointing out recently how the hiring of his son Ronny as chief recruiter has energized the program.

The news also comes after one of Thompson's most difficult incidents as a coach. Earlier this year, former player Kevin Millen was arrested twice on the campus for allegedly making telephone threats against Thompson.

With the NBA planning to start its season next month, it's possible that Thompson could wind up coaching in the pros for the rest of the season to see if he wants to pursue that option.

The Los Angeles Clippers have yet to hire a coach, though Thompson is not one of the three finalists mentioned yesterday by vice president Elgin Baylor, and the Chicago Bulls are looking for a way to entice Michael Jordan not to retire. Jordan's agent, David Falk, also represents Thompson.

Pub Date: 1/08/99

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