Says ESPN’s John Gasaway:
Georgetown had cleaned house in 1972, firing not only its basketball coach but also its athletic director.
The feeling among the Jesuit leadership was that the school needed to reorient more than just its basketball.
The university needed to reach out, for the first time, to the African American community in the District that had been on its doorstep all along. The Hoyas contacted Thompson, who was, understandably, skeptical.
Why should I believe you’re ready for a Black head coach in 1972, Thompson asked search committee chair Charles Deacon, when I know from my own experience that you weren’t ready for a Black player in 1960? Georgetown was also looking at Morgan Wootten and at Maryland assistant coach George Raveling as potential head coaches, but, in the end, the Jesuits went with Thompson.
“We don’t expect John Thompson to work a miracle,” Frank Rienzo said in one of his first statements as the new athletic director. “But we’ll be happy if he does.”
You can make a case that what the Hoyas had just pulled off was in fact one of the greatest hires in college basketball history. Thompson completely transformed Georgetown, and the turnaround was plain to see even before Patrick Ewing arrived in the fall of 1981.