Syracuse vs. Georgetown: The oral history, chapter two

March 7, 2013
Chapter two: The Roaring ’80s

Facing off two and sometimes three times each season, Georgetown and Syracuse showcased basketball greats such as Patrick Ewing, Pearl Washington, Dikembe Mutombo and Derrick Coleman in (sometimes literal) slugfests as heated as any in college basketball. Here are recollections of four classic clashes:

1984 Big East championship game, Madison Square Garden, Georgetown 82, Syracuse 71 (OT): Ewing and Washington each scored 27 points, the Hoyas’ Michael Graham punched Syracuse’s Andre Hawkins and Boeheim fumed, “The best team did not win tonight.”

ESPN broadcaster Mike Tirico, 1988 Syracuse graduate: “They were going to throw out Michael Graham and they didn’t, and he hit Andre Hawkins. Jim Boeheim, back in one of these media rooms said, ‘Michael Graham punched my player in front of 19,000 people, and [official] Jody Sylvester didn’t have the guts to call it! The wrong team won tonight.’ He walked off, picked up a chair and tossed it as he walked out of the press room. To this day, I’ll never forget that.”

Boeheim: “We played better that night. When the foul was called, there was a foul and then the punch was thrown. It was really a foul and then another punch after the foul. So it should have really been four free throws and the ball [for Syracuse], and they ended up with just a two-shot foul. At that stage of the game, if we had gotten the four free throws and the ball, we would have won the game.

“Georgetown made a great comeback, but it was a disappointing call at the end of the game, which sometimes happens. In the heat of the moment you’re going to be very upset.”

Shapland: “If you ask a Syracuse fan about this game, he will refer to ‘Graham throwing a punch.’ If you ask a Georgetown fan, he will tell you to look at the Daily News photo of Patrick [Ewing] being punched in the groin by Pearl Washington.”

Jan. 28, 1985, Syracuse 65, Georgetown 63: A frenzied crowd of 32,229 packed the Carrier Dome, where a fan threw an orange that hit the backboard when No. 2 Georgetown’s Ewing was on the free throw line. Washington hit the game-winner with eight seconds left.

Michael Jackson, Georgetown point guard, 1982-86: “You go into the arena, the Dome, and as we’re in the locker room, you can hear the crowd reverberating in the locker room because there were just so many people there.

“[Pearl Washington] was special — very good ballhandler, fun to play against, as well. You like those challenges as a competitor. It was a challenge that we all were looking forward to, and when I say we all, I mean the entire team.”

Bud Poliquin, Syracuse Post-Standard columnist, 1984-present: “This is the time when it got really stupid and ugly. There were signs that said, ‘Patrick [Ewing], can you read this?’ They were making fun of his intellect. That’s when Thompson was very, very sensitive of all that. So when the fruit goes off the backboard, an orange, he took the team off the court immediately. . . . Boeheim grabbed the microphone, and that was a great moment. He asks the crowd to calm down.”

Boeheim: “The [orange-throwing] guy had a good arm, because he threw it from I-don’t-know-where — he was in the third deck — and hit the backboard. So it was quite a throw! But you have to go to microphone and tell people: ‘We can’t do that. If you keep doing that, we’re going to have to give the game away!’ After that it was fine. . . .

“Came down to the last shot. I remember we called a play in the huddle, we were going to go to somebody else. And Pearl looked at me and said, ‘I can make this shot.’ [I said,] ‘All right, let’s get the ball to Pearl. We’ll clear this side and let him go.’ And he made the jump shot. He’s a confidence player. You want your best player to have the ball in that situation. It was the right call.”

Michael Wilbon, ESPN analyst, former reporter and columnist for The Washington Post:“Pearl Washington hits a rainbow jumper that seems to be over Michael Jackson, and bedlam ensues. Syracuse wins the game. And people come rushing onto the court like a college football game. And I remember Rich Chvotkin laying on his side on the floor getting trampled, still talking as only Rich could do, saying that the Hoyas had lost an incredible game to Syracuse.”

Jan. 24, 1988, Georgetown 69, Syracuse 68: Georgetown’s Charles Smith goes the length of the court to win it at the buzzer in the Carrier Dome.

Thompson: “Probably more than anybody, I remember Charles Smith playing extremely well against Syracuse. I remember his games against Sherman Douglas. I remember he won the last-second game for us at Syracuse once.

“We were trying to get the ball for Dwayne Bryant to bring it down, and they denied Dwayne the ball, which forced the ball to have to go to Charles. And Charles didn’t let it go. He went the whole length of the court — went through everybody — and made a layup, and we went running off and screaming and hollering. We had a lot of exciting games up there. I thought they were fun games. We had some games in which they beat the socks off us, which we didn’t like, too.”

John Walker, 1978 Georgetown graduate, season ticket holder for 35 years:Charlie takes the ball, no time outs, and weaves through traffic. This was one hell of a shot: A scoop finger roll basically from his waist, halfway down the lane, through Rony Seikaly, nothing but net, at the buzzer. He runs off the court, we win by one, and that place, it went from being as loud as you possibly can imagine to being Nats Park in the ninth inning this last October.”

March 4, 1990, Syracuse 89, Georgetown 87 (OT): With the Big East regular season title at stake, Thompson was ejected in the first half after drawing three technical fouls in a 10-second span. Fouled at midcourt with one second remaining in regulation, Syracuse’s Billy Owens hit two foul shots with one second left to force overtime at a giddy Carrier Dome.

Poliquin: “The one game that I got a kick out of, [Thompson] got T’d up. I believe it was the third time, and he gets tossed. And the Dome is going crazy. They’re booing the bad guy, and they’re loving it. As he’s walking out, as he’s leaving the building, all of a sudden he thrusts both hands into the air, like: ‘Go on! Let me have it! Give me your best shot!’ He had his hands over his head, and was kind of triumphant. That was pretty cool.”

Boeheim: “That was the most memorable game, I think, in the series. We had three Final Four referees working that game, great referees. . . . It was a call that really when you looked at it, I think it was the right call. It wasn’t an outrageous call. John had one official right next to him, and he just went after him, which you expect on a call. He got the technical. That official left. The second official came over to try to calm down, and he went after him and got the second technical. That ref left, and now the third guy comes over, and he got the third technical [for walking on court]. At the time, we were down five or six points. I think we got six free throws. That kind of put us in the lead. . . .

“Billy Owens was coming up the court, and they called a foul, which could have been a little questionable. . . . Billy had not shot the ball particularly well from the free throw line. You’re down two; you have to make both, or else you don’t get into overtime. He made ’em both. The overtime was spectacular basketball. We played great.”

Thompson: “That one loss haunts me today. . . . They threw me out of that game. . . . [The officials] were picking on me. . . .

“[Had we won it], I would have come out of that locker room and come right out on the floor. I was set for that! I said: ‘We got ’em! It’s [one second] to go! They’re at the far end of the court!’ Sam [Jefferson] was guarding him aggressively and happened to foul him. And then they end up winning the game.

“Had we won that game, guarantee you: Manley Field House statement wouldn’t have been nothing compared to what I would have said to ’em!

“Emotions were always very high, and that’s the beauty of it now when you look back at it. I don’t remember why I was mad [and drew the technicals]. I probably created something to be mad about, to tell you the truth. Michael Jordan and I had lot in common about that: I functioned better when I thought people didn’t like me than I did when I thought they did.”

NEXT: CHAPTER 3 — NO SIGNS OF COOLING OFF

Liz Clarke, A.J. Chavar, Camille Powell, Barry Svrluga, Gene Wang and Jayne Orenstein conducted the interviews for this story.

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