The Van Buren Boys

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Friday, June 15, 2007

The Contract Situation: Still Unresolved

CBS Sportline is just as flabergasted as we all are about Georgetown's inability to get this done. I have a little more faith than he does that JTIII won't be sour over whatever the delay is . . . so long as there is a reasonable explanation for it (e.g., getting Board approval for a new practice facility). Also, we have to remember that DeGioia and JTII have been very close friends for decades. While I can see JTIII getting upset at the delay in the process, I'm sure he is more understanding than someone like Calipary would be.

Georgetown's indecision might lead to Dear John

It'll get done, eventually. Off the record, that's what everybody keeps telling me. Just wait. Don't worry. Calm my nerves, hold my horses -- or Hoyas, in this case -- and find something else to write about because the moment I make a big deal out of the strange situation surrounding John Thompson III's contract is the same moment he'll agree to a new contract, and I'll look silly for ever wasting words on the subject. Those folks might be right. But I'm tired of waiting around. And I'm guessing good old JT3 is too. So now is the time to ask: What's up at Georgetown?
. . . .

I know things take time, but this is silly. Though at least a dozen coaches have had their contracts extended this offseason -- everybody from Rick Pitino to Chris Lowery to Mike Brey to Larry Eustachy -- Thompson is still sitting right where he has long been, making $456,000 a year with just two years remaining on the contract. Granted, that's a nice salary for most of us. But in the wacky world of college basketball it's an embarrassingly low figure for a guy coming off a Sweet 16 in 2006 and Final Four in 2007, a salary that reportedly ranks 11th in the Big East.
. . . .

Now nobody is talking. But that actually says plenty. Because if everything is fine, wouldn't somebody say everything is fine? Hell, in this business people tend to insist everything is fine even when everything clearly isn't fine. So when you combine the silence with the fact that it has been more than two months since the season ended, it's safe to assume the contract negotiations between Georgetown and Thompson haven't gone as planned, meaning everything can't possibly be fine. Which is not to suggest the contract won't get done. Rest assured, it will get done. I'm quite certain of that.

But while operating in such an unrushed manner, Georgetown is likely, at least in some regard, souring its relationship with its coach, and a soured relationship can lead a man to irrational things. Remember last year when John Calipari nearly left Memphis for N.C. State, got on the plane and flew to Raleigh and everything? The reason that happened wasn't because he necessarily wanted to leave Memphis or go to N.C. State, but because Calipari felt Memphis was disrespecting him in contract negotiations that stalled after he led the Tigers to the Elite Eight. Ultimately, Calipari stayed at Memphis. This year, he went to another Elite Eight.
Two days later, he had a raise and extension. Credit athletic director R.C. Johnson for learning his lesson.

It's a lesson DeGioia, Muir and everybody else at Georgetown would be wise to review sometime soon. The school is in the middle of a perfect run under the perfect coach who in just three years has returned Georgetown to national prominence in a way Esherick never could after replacing Thompson's father (Hall of Famer John Thompson Jr.). Messing around with perfection while haggling over money -- or anything, really -- is a shortsighted way to operate in the current state of college athletics. Thompson deserved a raise after the 2006 NCAA Tournament. But he didn't get it. Thompson deserved a raise after the 2007 NCAA Tournament. But he still hasn't got it.

Perhaps there's a reasonable explanation for the lack of action, but I can't imagine what it could be. And if Georgetown doesn't alleviate this situation soon with a contract that makes a statement, the administration might find itself again negotiating after the 2008 NCAA Tournament, only it'll be with a new coach not named Thompson, and we all know how well that has worked for them in the past.

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