What John Thompson Meant To DC

The Lead


What was it like for you to cover John Thompson and the Hoyas as a young reporter? What were your interactions with him like? It was. You know it was an education was twenty, three, twenty, four years old and that was my first beat but John was a handful. As you can imagine, and he controlled everything we control the player access you controlled access to himself and draw the program, and so John was someone that you You had to kind of meet on his terms. Can you describe he was six foot ten? He was just this literally and figuratively massive figure. Can you describe what it? was like to be in his presence well, I mean look any six, ten, three, hundred, pound guy is going to have a certain amount of power to him. You know he wasn't nimble I won't say he was Nimble but he certainly had the meeting of former athlete and you know he had a big loud booming voice nothing had happened by accident I had no intentions of being a basketball court. I. Wanted To be a teacher basically social worker kind of person freelance. Knew. How to use his size and his voice to great effect and I, was not the recipient of John's paint peeling yelling as as the players often were but they will tell you that there was just there was just nothing like it when he really was angry and was coming after you about a mistake, you made a decision you made. He certainly tilted the room when he came in when their buzzer went off and they said it's over. We didn't stay up and down the hallway and talk with people kissing is just so we can get a good article written about us he coach during the glory days of the Big East what do you remember most about his team's and just the style and the way that they played? Well, the frenetic full court pressure was their thing. To set up an impressed. Retract. Very physical teams anybody that came into the pink dot hit, and that's just the way that they had always played. Here. And that leads to a lot of confrontations. A couple of pretty bad fights. But a lot of grabbing and holding things like that. And that's just the way that they had always played in obviously worked for them. David you're born and raised DC. Can you talk about what John? Thomson and the Georgetown Program? Men's to people in DC and in particular to black basketball fans in the city DC was like a lot of cities in the eighties dealing with a lot of different stuff that was that was very difficult. The year is only sixty days old during that time. There have now been ninety-two homicides here in the District of Columbia last year sixty to eighty percent of the murders in the nation's capital, we're listed as drug related. You had the explosion of crack cocaine in DC in in the mid eighties just devastated whole swath of the community and you had Marion Berry who was this incredibly polarizing figure, and this is before his drug problems came to bear. He was polarizing well before then because he insisted that these rich white guys that tended to run the city hire black people all the people who only know Marion Barry through the nasty headlines in the videotape of crack cocaine. Don't know extraordinary work. He did in this in Washington to open up the doors of government to the black people of Washington you're shutout for years decades, and then you have this presidential era of Reagan, where there was a lot of hostility towards cities, there was a lot of cutting a city services. There was a lot of emnity towards people that were on welfare and they've perception that raking perpetuated was that all these people are welfare cheats and they're not in their bums and you're not working for a living perhaps the most insidious effect of welfare is it's usurpation of the role of provider. Public assistance for a single mother can amount to much more than the usual income of a minimum wage job. In other words, it can pay for her to quit work. These competing forces, all kind of colliding with one another in the city in the early eighties in the mid eighties and into that Maelstrom, you have this basketball team. That is good enough to win a national championship in one, thousand, nine, hundred, four. Jobs. The I ask championship. And then notice that the team is mostly black eleven of the twelve guys or thirteen or fourteen guys that get your attention in one, thousand, nine, hundred, eighty, three, or eighty four you know rap videos late eighties is a Lotta Georgetown starter jackets in those videos. was torn concept had long hair and short baby came in national programs to the point where a lot of black people thought. Georgetown was an HP. Come to the. Question to see hundred. So there was this kind of interesting blend. Wall Street types and judges, and fortune five hundred CEO's with the people that cleaned the offices and drove the buses rooting for the same team and it was gonNA. Kinda, cold because it kind of it helped bring the city together in ways that really only the football team had done previously and it brought a lot of pride to the city as as a six. They were proving that black kids from inner city high schools could go to Georgetown and do work. They could do the work and that was a source of immense pride to people in DC Thomson was, of course, the first black basketball coach to win a national championship. But David you've written about how Thompson would bristle when asked about that accomplishment. Why did he? Take exception to that question will John would always say is that the question implied that he was the first black coach who who had the qualifications to win a national championship I'm not interested in being the first and only black do anything because it implies that in Nineteen eighty-four, a black man finally became intelligent enough to win NCAA, title and that's very misleading. And that was John's way of saying you know you need to understand the history of coaching. There was a lot more deferential treatment provided to white coaches for for decades and coaches like Adolph rupp that didn't recruit black players. was hostile toward black players. So that was John's way of saying you know do your homework. In nineteen, eighty nine. He famously walked off the court before a game to protest an NCWA rules that he felt disproportionately affected black students. undercurrent NCWA rules students can qualify for athletic scholarships by scoring seven hundred out of a possible sixteen hundred on the College Board Sat test fifteen out of thirty six on the act or with a two point average and certain. Subjects proposition forty two would require athletes to have both. What did he? What did he say about that? John's position was that both the sat scores and your grade point average could be impacted adversely due to the educational disparities present throughout public schools at the time black has weren't being taught the things that were on the sat. He made his point that you know these tests should not be the end all and be all in terms of determining whether or not a kid was smart enough to go into college. Moment existence and I. started into school that I would not been dotted with an opportunity to get a college education myself. He was recruiting kids that play but also kids that can do the work. So it was not as much an issue for him in terms of recruiting it was more the bigger picture of. Are we going to allow these tests to determine whether black kids can get into colleges and then they finally wound up modifying prop forty two as a result of it.

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