“That’s not always true,” he insisted when his all-lobby status came up. “I’m just sitting here right now because I’m waiting for some people to get into their rooms.”
Did he have a room yet?
Thompson laughed. “Of course I have a room. You know my philosophy of life: I do what the airplane pilots always tell you to do. I put the mask over my face first and then I help the baby.”
Thompson last coached in a Final Four in 1985 and hasn’t coached at Georgetown since January 1999. He is here doing the games on radio but he is also here, like so many of those in the lobby, to renew old friendships and tell war stories.
From his perch, Thompson could see — and could be seen by — almost everyone heading in the direction of the elevators. One coach after another stopped or paused to say hello or pay respects, everyone calling one another by the universal name that is used by one and all this weekend: “Coach.”
“The best thing about it is if you call someone Coach, you’re going to be right 99 percent of the time,” Indiana Coach Tom Crean said. “And if by some chance you’re wrong, no one gets upset. Everyone is either a coach, an ex-coach or wants to be a coach.”
Crean wasn’t in the lobby Thursday. He was in his office at Indiana, having decided that his time this week was better spent getting ready for spring and summer recruiting and organizing his team’s offseason program.
“It’s fun to be there,” Crean said. “But I’d rather be working on getting there with my team.”
Crean’s team came up two games short this year, losing to Kentucky in the Sweet 16. Nine years ago, when he was at Marquette, he was here with his team after it stunned Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
“The hardest thing about getting ready is the waiting,” he said. “We had a very mature team that year but staying locked in the way you want to be locked in was tough.”
More and more coaches are taking Crean’s approach to the Final Four. Once upon a time, you had to show a key just to get into the lobby of the coaches’ hotel. Thursday, the massive lobby was full of activity but there was plenty of room to move around and no one checking keys. The ex-coaches — like Thompson — seem to enjoy showing up this week more than those still coaching.