Blood Is Thicker Than Alma Mater

John Thompson Jr., right, shares a moment with his sons, Ronny, center, and John III after Georgetown defeated Ball State at Verizon Center.
John Thompson Jr., right, shares a moment with his sons, Ronny, center, and John III after Georgetown defeated Ball State at Verizon Center. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)

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By Mike Wise
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Ball State player surveyed the baseball cap worn by John Thompson Jr. last night. "You were looking to see if it said Georgetown or Ball State, weren't you?" Big John said, playfully chiding the young man.

The cap had only an embroidered 'T' -- for Thompson.

Neutrality in a surname. Nice.

"Name-branding," he explained. "I've been doing it for a few years."

Same goes for John III and Ronny, the two Division I basketball coaches Big John Thompson fathered, mentored and who faced off against one another at Verizon Center. Proud but a little pained, their pops had to feel like a member of the Barber family when Tiki's Giants and Ronde's Buccaneers collide on a Sunday.

John III's Hoyas were supposed to win by 20. But no one in the Thompson family wanted to see Ronny's Cardinals get beat down in his first year; that just wouldn't be brotherly.

"You win either way," Big John was told before Georgetown won, 69-54.

"I lose either way, too," he said, letting out a bear of a laugh.

This is a tale of two little boys who one day were being escorted by their father to the top of War Memorial Arena in Rochester, N.Y., after Georgetown knocked off Syracuse in 1974 and the next were wearing immaculately tailored black blazers and resplendent ties, working the same sidelines they grew up watching Pops work.

"It was my first away game in Rochester," remembered Rich Chvotkin, who called his 1,000th Georgetown game last night. "I can still see Coach bringing both of them all the way up there to the top, all tired out by the time he got there. 'I'm not doin' this again,' he said."

The boys were both there the night their father lost an emotional thriller to Dean Smith in the 1982 national title game, the night Michael Jordan hit the shot and Fred Brown turned the ball over to James Worthy in the final seconds. Big John likened the hug he got that night from Dean Smith, his very good friend, to the hug Ronny would get from John III last night.

"I never had a brother, so that's the closest thing I can think of," he said. "If you look at Dean and the expression on his face when he came to hug me, it wasn't an expression of joy. He was happy, but he knew he'd beaten a good friend and I think it took a little bit of that feeling of euphoria away."


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