A FEW CHOICE WORDS: TONY KORNHEISER

After Georgetown Springs an Upset, A Winning Son Maketh a Glad Father

John Thompson III and John Thompson Jr. are the only father-son coaching combo to beat top-ranked teams.
John Thompson III and John Thompson Jr. are the only father-son coaching combo to beat top-ranked teams. (2004 Photo By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

At the end of the first half, when Georgetown was up 14 points on Duke, Big John Thompson was having no part of the celebrating going on around him. He had coached far too many games to allow himself to think that you've already beaten the No. 1 team in the country after just 20 minutes. "You and I know there's a second half to be played," he said warily.

And as Duke crept closer and closer in that second half, Big John fretted. From his seat in the corner of the baseline close to the Georgetown bench, he repeatedly glanced anxiously at the game clock, hoping to speed it up before Duke could come all the way back. Only when Georgetown ultimately did win, and there was bedlam in the arena, did Big John finally relax and exhale.

One by one, the jubilant Georgetown players came off the court and stopped to hug Big John -- because they know where their coach got his game from. "Everybody hugs Uncle Remus," Big John giggled. Eventually, John III came by, and father and son embraced, and Big John patted his boy's head with enormous paternal pride. "You know and I know what this is about," Big John said with great emotion. "That's my child. Forget the coaching stuff; that's my child." Then he disappeared toward the Georgetown locker room "to get some more hugging."

You want to know how many father-and-son basketball coaching combinations have beaten the No. 1 team in the country? One. Big John, in 1985 over St. John's, and John III, yesterday over Duke. That's it; that's the list.

Someone who has known Big John for more than 30 years commented that he looked even happier after this win by his son than after his own national championship win. Of course when this was later mentioned to Pops himself, he leaned over from his great height and chuckled, "Let's not get carried away, huh?"


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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