Like most coaches, Thompson isn’t the type to discuss strategy publicly. It’s clear, however, that Thompson had to make major adjustments without Whittington in the lineup.
On offense, the Hoyas played smaller lineups, tried different combinations and revised roles in attempt to replace Whittington’s scoring. On defense, Thompson emphasized crisper rotations and even more of a team-defense approach without Whittington, who used to cover a lot of ground and clean up teammates’ mistakes.
Also, it’s not just the day-to-day plans that change when a team’s second-best player is out. Coaches make projections about how players will develop throughout the season. Thompson expected Whittington, a sophomore, to improve a lot. With Porter’s production and Whittington’s potential, the Hoyas could have had a powerful 1-2 punch at forward. Instead, Porter usually handles most of the scoring load.
Still, Thompson has made it all work: The Hoyas are 11-1 without Whittington. That’s a great stretch after Georgetown’s shaky conference start and the initial blow of Whittington being ineligible.
“Coach really didn’t give us a choice to use anything as an excuse,” Porter told me recently. “He never talked about anything as . . . being a problem. It was just, ‘Okay, everybody has to do more.’ Everybody understood.”
Being able to reach the entire group has been Thompson’s best feat this season. In his line of work, it doesn’t always happen. After winning two Big East regular season championships, a conference tournament title and making a Final Four appearance, Thompson is putting together a season that could rank as his most satisfying, in part, because of the Hoyas’ togetherness.
“This group is on the same page,” he said. “They’ve done a very good job of caring about and covering for each other. We’ve had to make so many adjustments, so many changes, relative to what we had anticipated. But they’ve stuck together.”
Of course, they’re not finished yet. And with postseason play ahead, a lot of people are going to be talking about not just the Hoyas, but the man who has made sure they’ve stuck together through it all.
For previous columns by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.