John Thompson Jr. built Georgetown into one of the nation's elite basketball programs. His son, John III, is ensuring the Hoyas stay that way. That father-son combination places Georgetown at No. 16 on the list of the greatest college basketball programs.
Sure, the Hoyas have been hoopin' for 100 years, with the occasional standout season (13-1 in 1919-'20 or 12-1 in '27-'28, or most impressively 22-5 and NCAA tournament runner-up in '42-'43), but it wasn't until Thompson arrived in the '70s that the school became a hoops haven.
(Click here for an excellent Georgetown timeline, including a reference to one-time star rebounder Paul Tagliabue.)
From 1975 to 1997, the Hoyas played in 20 NCAA tournaments, reached three Final Fours, won nine Big East regular-season titles, six conference tourneys, had five players honored as consensus All-Americans and won the 1985 NCAA title.
After a slight dip under Craig Escherick, Georgetown has won two Big East titles and reached another Final Four in four seasons under JT III, going 58-15 the last two seasons. Like dad's teams, the Hoyas are athletic, strong defensively and attract NBA-caliber players on the heels of guys like Patrick Ewing, Eric "Sleepy" Floyd, Reggie Williams, Charles Smith, Alonzo Mourning and Allen Iverson.
Unlike dad's teams, nowadays the Hoyas are more focused on offensive precision than being the toughest defensive team around. And man, were they tough.
The Hoyas symbolized the rough-and-tumble Big East in the '80s, a league with plenty of NBA talent, but where teams had to earn those victories. The league, formed in 1979, took shape as Georgetown came to national prominence thanks to three Final Fours berths in four seasons. It wasn't a coincidence that three of the era's most famous NCAA tourney championships involved the Hoyas.
Beating "Phi Slamma Jamma" in 1984 resulted in the school's lone title (and some jaw-dropping plays). This was the matchup the country wanted to see, with Patrick Ewing matching up against Houston's Akeem Olajuwon – a showdown of the top picks in the '85 and '84 NBA drafts, respectively.
But it's probably the least remembered title game of the three.
A loss in the '85 title game to Big East rival Villanova is usually cited as one of the biggest upsets in sports history (though a 1989 first-round escape against 16-seed Princeton could've supplanted it). It marked back-to-back Final Fours and a 69-6 record in Ewing's final two seasons.
And the first culminated with Michael Jordan's jumper and Fred Brown's errant pass in the final seconds of the '82 title game vs. North Carolina.
The sight of Thompson consoling a weeping Brown afterward symbolized Thompson's focus on aspects bigger than the game – like other preeminent black coaches of the time like John Chaney or George Raveling – though he could be tough, too. (Twenty-five years later, Brown spoke out about Thompson's tough love, remarking that Thompson only seemed to form lasting friendships with the future NBA stars.)
Both UNC and UNLV won more games than Georgetown in the 1980s, but no team was more famous. The Hoyas as a brand – black, proud and defiant – became associated with inner-city kids, eager to hoop for Thompson. For all the hoopla surrounding Michigan's Fab Five, Georgetown was first when it came to a larger-than life program (discounting the mythic proportions of UCLA.)
Because, despite all the peripheral noise associated with a good team, Georgetown remained, first and foremost, a hoops powerhouse. No, it never reached another Final Four under Thompson, but they were always among the favorites.
When he stepped down in mid-season 1999, it signaled the end of era, both in style and on-court success. Escherick did take one team to the Sweet 16, but the Hoyas were usually a .500 squad during his tenure.
Now that JT III is in D.C., a new Georgetown era of success has begun. And if it's anything close to what dad did, the Hoyas will keep rising on this list.
Next Tuesday: No. 15 on the list of greatest programs.