Family Ties Bond Thompson and Davis

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 10, 2009; Page E09

He has been around college basketball his entire life.

While other boys were playing video games, he was by his father's side, soaking up nuances of the sport that most of his rivals today didn't grasp until they were officially on the coaching track, as graduate assistants or directors of basketball operations for fledgling teams.

As a young Division I head coach, he worked hard to earn his place -- and make his own name -- in the sport. And despite his success, he's not too proud to call up his legendary father for a critique after wins and losses alike.

Before today's game at Verizon Center, that thumbnail biography will fit both head coaches perfectly when John Thompson III strides out to shake hands with Keno Davis of Providence.

Georgetown's 2004 hiring of Thompson, elder son of John Thompson Jr., created the first father-son combination to coach in the Big East. In April, Providence created the second by hiring Davis -- son of the legendary Tom Davis, who coached at Boston College during the nascent years of the Big East (and later Stanford, Iowa and Drake).

"I don't think he looks at it as this huge pressure," said Thompson, 42, who is uncommonly qualified to offer insight into the expectations facing Davis, 36, given his father's achievements. "I think he's just doing what he's very good at, and what he's comfortable with, and what he has been a part of all his life."

Today's game is one both coaches would dearly love to win. For Thompson, it would halt a two-game losing skid by Georgetown (10-3, 1-2). For Davis, it would extend a four-game winning streak by Providence (11-4, 3-0).

When last seen at Verizon Center, the Hoyas suffered a 16-point loss at the bruising hands of Pittsburgh, whose players humiliated them on the boards, posting a 48-23 rebounding edge.

Two days later, on Monday, Georgetown lost again at Notre Dame, undermining its cause with dreadful shooting, particularly from three-point range and the free throw line.

It took no coaxing on Thompson's part to bring the Hoyas down to earth when they regrouped for practice this week. It was back to basics: working hard, drilling the fundamentals and rebounding, rebounding, rebounding.

"Rebounding has been an issue all year, and we want to do that better," senior guard Jessie Sapp said. "We have to play harder, of course. And we're going to play harder."

None other than John Thompson Jr., who coached the Hoyas from 1972 to 1999 (posting a 596-239 record), stopped by one afternoon this week to stress a point about rebounding. Most rebounds are grabbed below the basket, he reminded the players. The message: Rebounding is everyone's job, and more a matter of heart than height.

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