Larry Kimball, Syracuse sports information director, 1966-97: “In a couple of seconds — in five or six words — John Thompson started what became the great rivalry between Syracuse and Georgetown simply by saying, ‘Manley Field House is officially closed.’ It’s almost like fighting words — ‘Remember the Alamo’ or Pearl Harbor — like casting bad remarks on your mother or something.”
Thompson: “It was at the press conference, and it was one of those things at the spur of the moment. You walk up there, you open by saying, ‘Manley Field House is officially closed.’ The people laughed a little. Most of them were Syracuse people; they failed to see the humor in it, to tell you the truth.”
Rich Chvotkin, Georgetown radio announcer, 1974-present: “Those words alone set the whole tone for that Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry. Everything was predicated on that.”
Howard Triche, Syracuse forward, 1983-87: “[Thompson and Boeheim] were the patriarchs of the Big East. They started everything together at the same time. They had passion about the sport. They had passion about the league, and about their teams and their players. With Coach Thompson, sometimes it was them against the world in some aspects with the group he had.”
Bill Shapland, Georgetown graduate and senior sports communications director, 1984-present: “Boeheim was called ‘the math teacher.’ He also didn’t suffer fools lightly. So there’s no hero and villain picking between him and Thompson. . . . I think probably [founding Big East Commissioner] Dave Gavitt had a lot to do with cooling them out before it went nuclear. I’m just assuming, but you’ve got two guys who really don’t give a damn what you think of them, in tremendously competitive situations.
Boeheim: “You had two fairly young coaches that were trying to establish their programs as the best program. And you’re going to have moments and battles in those games that are going to get heated. We had those in those first years. At the end, it really mellowed. We came together, got to know each other off the court. And we became friends even at the end of the rivalry when we were still coaching.”
Thompson: “There’s a difference between competitive dislike and personal respect. Regardless of what I felt competitively, Jim Boeheim is a hell of a basketball coach. And that’s what made it better to dislike him. . . .
“Let no doubt be about it: I have always respected their program and Jimmy. And I never could have admitted it — never would have admitted it. But you want a good opponent. That’s what you measure yourself by.”
NEXT: CHAPTER 2 — THE ROARING ’80s
Liz Clarke, A.J. Chavar, Camille Powell, Barry Svrluga, Gene Wang and Jayne Orenstein conducted the interviews for this story.