It’s not hard to pinpoint where John Thompson III’s career at Georgetown fell apart. Georgetown had been perennial contenders in the NCAA Tournament going into the 2013 season, even leading to a No. 2 seeding in the NCAA Tournament, Georgetown’s fourth straight NCAA Tournament berth.
And then, well, you know the rest.
John Thompson III’s career at Georgetown didn’t die in South Philly, but he never reclaimed that magic he had, only making the tournament one more time in the remaining four years of his career at Georgetown, with Georgetown cutting him loose after only his second sub-.500 season.
Since then, Thompson III has laid low, spending time with the US National Team and the professional teams in Washington.
Here’s why BC should think about bringing him to the Heights.
Why he’d be interested:
John Thompson III can do all of the national team and professional jobs he wants. John Thompson III is a college basketball coach at heart—it’s a job that was practically assigned to him at birth by his dad. Sure, it’s not Georgetown, but it’s BC which has at least somewhat of a similar institutional footprint to Georgetown (perhaps not recently on the court to be fair). If he wants to get back into the game, this is an opportunity to have a high profile platform to show his skills and possibly use it as a springboard to get back into a job he’d like more.
Or not! He was the Georgetown coach for 13 seasons after all.
Also, why would we deny a Thompson a chance at beating Syracuse twice every year?
Why it could work:
Two words: Princeton offense.
For the uninitiated, the Princeton offense is an offense that relies upon constant motion, ball movement and team chemistry. It’s a little bit more intricate than that, but here is what you need to know about it.
First, there really isn’t any distinctive positions in a Princeton offense. A player brings the ball to the top of the key with four players around the arc, and the ball is moved until there is an opportunity for penetration, or a kick-out for a three.
Second, the offense is used by teams facing a team with better athletes because the offense is slow developing. Think Tony Bennett at Virginia and the Pack Line Defense level of pace (Bennet also uses a modified form of Princeton). The idea is that by slowing the game down there are less scoring opportunities for the better athletic team.
Finally, it leads to benefits on the other side of the floor. By slowing the game down, it can help a defense that’s mismatched.
It should also be noted that the Princeton offense can work. Like, really well. Thompson III had a decent amount of success at Georgetown with the Princeton offense, but Tony Bennett is a national champion running something similar to the Princeton offense. Bo Ryan ran swing at Wisconsin, which is a modified Princeton offense. No one in the right mind could disagree with the statement of fact that those these men have had excellent coaching careers, and their teams have found success running this offense.
The genius of implementing Princeton is that it takes BC’s biggest weakness, trouble recruiting star players, and turns it into not only a moot point, but even a positive. The reality is that at this stage in the BC rebuild, BC is never going to recruit blue chip prospects that are going to makes headlines on ESPN’s Top 100. Even those that do consider BC tend to be a flash in a pan.
The Princeton offense not only can work with the players that BC can get, it thrives on them. If BC can get guys who may not make highlight reels every night, but can distribute, penetrate and pull up for a three if necessary running Princeton, the system can work. And trust me, those guys are out there and BC can get them. They just need a coach to put the pieces together, and John Thompson III is one of the better Princeton coaches out there.
Why it could flop:
There are a lot of reasons why John Thompson III is not coaching at Georgetown anymore. The most compelling is that the team took a downward trajectory in his final years. Thirteen years is a long time for a coach to be coaching, but that trajectory should raise alarm bells.
The other reason is that if John Thompson III does find success, there’s nothing stopping him from jumping ship if he wants to. Ordinarily I’d encourage BC to hire someone in that position (do we really expect Jeff Hafley to be here for a Bear Bryant length of time? [don’t leave us coach]), but the downside of hiring Thompson III is that Princeton isn’t malleable for a coach who doesn’t run it. To put it another way, if Thompson III’s theoretical replacement came in and and wanted to run a more traditional offense, there would have to be some sort of transition period (think Georgia Tech transitioning from the triple option in football). That’s not the trajectory you want for a rebuilding team.
How likely is this hire?
I mean, I wouldn’t hold my breath on this one, but that’s not to say that BC shouldn’t at least talk about it. Running Princeton could be a great fit for BC in its rebuild, and if BC doesn’t want Thompson III, at least thinking about a coach that runs Princeton is a path that could pay some level of dividends.