Georgetown...when you say the name there's just a ring to it, especially if you grew up with basketball in the Northeast as I did. The 80s brought about excess, hip hop, drugs...and the Big East. All things that are brash, in your face, a departure from the establishment that not all were willing or able to embrace. Programs like Syracuse, St. John's and Villanova helped shape the Big East during that time, but it was Georgetown that gave the league its first "label".
Home jerseys were grey, not white. They played with an attitude built on hard-nosed defense and an intensity that they dared you to match. Much was made of the fact that they seemed to get into a few more skirmishes than other teams of that time, that their offense didn't seem to get untracked until someone missed a shot. But it was their success that spoke the loudest at the end of the day. They won games, and over 90% of their players graduated from one of the nation's best schools. All this while other programs looked upon in a more positive light by the mainstream public shoved players ill-equipped to deal with the real world out of their doors without an adequate education, much less a degree.
A lot of my friends felt that Georgetown and head coach John Thompson were "racist", because of the jerseys and the fact that there never seemed to be a Caucasian player on the team. I didn't see it that way at all. Players were reserved yet confident in who they were and what the program they represented stood for. Yeah their brand of basketball, much like the rest of the Big East, wasn't the prettiest. But they got results. And isn't that the point? Especially in this day in age, where five years without a trip to the Final Four can get a coach fired, regardless of his team's graduation rate or how many winning seasons he's put together? A sportswriter in Salt Lake City once referred to Coach Thompson as the "Idi Amin of college basketball". Knowing who Amin was and what he did in his years as a dictator, this couldn't be further from the truth.
Georgetown...one of the polarizing words in sports back in the 1980s...is back. Like Duke today and Notre Dame for years, this name elicited feelings of love or hate, nothing in between. You didn't have to like them, and they didn't care if you did. But you did respect them. Everyone talked about the influence of Patrick Ewing, and rightfully so. But the one Hoya that scared me was Michael Graham, his interior partner in crime. I thought of him as an enforcer of some sorts, but he was still cool. And who could forget Charles Smith? A guy told by Coach Thompson that he wouldn't play much, that he'd have to focus on defense if he wanted to even sniff the court...only to become an All-American by the time his four years were up. Of course he ran into some problems off the court after leaving the school, but that can't be blamed on the program.
Georgetown was a program shrouded in secrecy during that time, with little or no access provided to the media. But that was their way of doing things and it worked. Once again, you didn't have to like it but you would respect it. That sentence sums up why I liked Georgetown so much as a child. It was all about respect. And as the Hoyas return to this grand stage know as the Final Four, some of the names have remained the same, albeit in different forms. Thompson III, Ewing Jr., but it's been more about guys like Hibbert, Green Wallace and Sapp in this "renaissance". And even though many say that the Big East was "down" this year, I have flashbacks to the glory years, all because the name "Georgetown" once again means something in college basketball.
My old school grey satin Starter jacket is much too small for me right now, but I may have to purchase a new one pretty soon. "Hoya Paranoia" is back in full effect.
"Yeah I went to St. John's, but Georgetown was my team...When you had a Georgetown Starter jacket, it meant you were down like Georgetown. It meant that you were down by law." -Darryl "DMC" McDaniels