The Van Buren Boys

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Katz still hearts the Hoyas ... and other thoughts

I loved this mention of the Hoyas from Andy Katz's New Year's piece:

Georgetown closed 2008 with a resounding win at Connecticut. The Hoyas host Pitt on Saturday (ESPN, noon) in a game that is as anticipated as any in the Big East this season. Illinois closed the calendar year with an impressive overtime win at Purdue. Michigan is up next for the Illini, and that game could provide insight into the Big Ten winner. This is good for the sport. This is really good. Georgetown has returned to power status.

It proved its strength two seasons ago when it reached the Final Four. The Hoyas are not wilting. They're getting stronger and more firm in their standing as an annual title contender, and those back-to-back regular-season Big East titles are evidence. A third is hardly out of the question. Pitt has become a new player among the Big East elite this decade. But having Georgetown back is good for the game.

Why? Well, the sport needs the Hoyas. Call me a traditionalist, but name recognition matters. Georgetown, which plays in the nation's capital, is synonymous with college basketball. Having that school's basketball program on television and mattering nationally is good for business.

This got me thinking about just how far we have come since we began this blog to coincide with JTIII's hiring as head coach. (Granted, our posting thus far this season has been halting at best.) After that first season, which featured a disappointing fade down the stretch soothed by glimpses of future glory, Jester linked to an Andy Katz piece that didn't even list Georgetown among the top 50 programs in the country, heading into the 2005-2006 season:

That season we spent much of the year in the top 25 and went to the sweet 16. The following year: top 25, plus Big East reg season/tourney champs and final four. Last year we were almost as good, save the disastrous loss in the second round to Davidson. This year we might even be better. What a testament to what many of us said during the ugly Esherick days. College basketball is all about the head coach. Plan and simple. Are facilities important? Yes. Does this issue need to be addressed at Georgetown? Of course. But it is worth appreciating what a difference a great coach makes.

I hope that the excitement of this year and the realization that the recent success was not just a fluke will spur more alumni to give to the program and to encourage the university to make the needed facilities investment. Reading between the lines of the JTIII contract extension negotiations, it seems that he was promised a new practice facility, but Lord knows how long that could take. With the economic downturn, he and we may need to be patient. That said, once the time comes, everyone needs to give generously.

Success in such a highly competitive environment is guaranteed to be fleeting without sustained commitment. This is true for great programs and great coaches. We learned that lesson at Georgetown in the late 1990s. Other programs, Temple, Michigan, Maryland, Depaul, St. John's and UNLV, to name a few, have also learned this the hard way.

Remember: high school students naturally have a very small frame of reference. They don't know who went to the final four 5 years ago, let alone 10 years ago. We can never become complacent again, as another JTIII may not be available to walk through those doors of an aging McDonough gym.

So let's enjoy our current success and plan for more in the future! Happy New Year's everyone!

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