At a very fancy party not long ago, Georgetown University's president, Rev. Timothy S. Healy, asked for a second cup of coffee as Henry Kissinger (to quote Healy) "needled the pants off Ronald Reagan."
A waiter delivered the second coffee to Healy, pausing long enough to whisper in the priest's ear, "We're going all the way this year."
Healy told this story by way of illustrating Washington's attachment to the Georgetown basketball team that last night played North Carolina for the national championship. "It's great to be proud of something," Healy said in an hour-long interview with Washington Post reporters Dave Kindred, Ken Denlinger, Donald Huff and Michael Wilbon. Excerpts of that interview follow:
Q: Georgetown has been under fire, the latest volley coming from the cable-TV network, ESPN, which in a commentary accused the university of prostituting itself to admit Patrick Ewing.
A: "They went through the same old Boston Globe story. I do know the numbers (entrance exam scores, current grades), and it's a crock. That's all. It's absolute nonsense. This much I can legally say: had Patrick Ewing been a Washington resident and gone through our Upward Bound program, as he did in Boston, and been three feet high, we'd have taken him.
". . . If he were three feet high, nobody would have fussed about it . . . Bill Stott (dean of student affairs) rides herd on those transcripts, and the team is made up of students in good standing."
Q: The Notre Dame coach, Digger Phelps, caused a stir by saying 50 percent of colleges cheat and that $10,000 a year is the going rate of payment to the top players. What do you make of this?
A: "If you have a kid for four years and he doesn't get a degree, that's not good. They're cheating the kid academically . . . Then you really are kind of a pro farm team.
"Now, the $10,000. I don't know what he's talking about. The timing and the placing of the comment are such as to arouse high suspicion that the purpose was exactly what is happening, that you guys (the media) focus on it . . . If he has names and facts, they ought to go to the NCAA. Blowing it in the press doesn't help except in the generation of headlines. I'm not worried about it in our conference, the Big East . . .
"What you have out there on the floor tonight, the 10 kids starting, I'm as sure of North Carolina as I am of Georgetown, that those are students, honest to God students in good standing."
Q: What is a president's role in making certain his university's basketball team doesn't become "a pro farm team"?
A: "If you get an honest kid who's going to get an honest degree like Sleepy Floyd, and he's good enough to make the pros, good for him. This is not dishonorable . . . At our level now, it has to be watched, and I am very comfortable with John Thompson. If he's not an honest man, I've never met one."
Q: Has Thompson been able to get kids in school that his predecessor, Jack Magee, couldn't?
A: "Magee could've gotten the same kids in, but he wasn't as good a recruiter . . . If you poke John about it, the first thing he said about that silly letter (a list of academic guidelines made by Mike Jarvis, Ewing's high school coach, to schools interested in recruiting Ewing) was, 'Look, we're making no deals. About examinations, courses, tutors, we're making no deals. All we'll do is lay on a good education. But you're not going to tell me how to do it. Don't ask me to educate your son and then tell me how.' . . .
"All I ever knew about Patrick Ewing's recruiting--there is, you know, some doubt as to whether God knows whom John is recruiting, he's so secretive--is that John was leaving me one day when he turned back and said of Patrick, 'This man . . . is going to be a leader in the black community. I'd like a chance to make sure he's got something to say.' Vintage John Thompson." Q: Why does Georgetown's basketball success generate more excitement in other parts of the city than in the university's immediate neighborhood?
A: "In the immediate neighborhood, I'd take a long guess that the major sport is riding to hounds. (Laughing) So if you walk down O Street and ring bells, you're going to get some of them saying, 'Where's Georgetown?' . . . That is my principal reason for (playing games in) the Capital Centre. It's a place where you bridge this divided city."
Q: Define "divided city."
A: "This comes out of my being a New Yorker. You never get the separation between its universities and the city itself that you get in Washington. Washington has a cuckoo in its nest. The cuckoo is the federal government . . . Just by playing at the Cap Centre, you draw a city body. The town is out there, all of it, feds and nonfeds, rich, poor, established, nonestablished.
"Back in January, I went to a Greek restaurant in Alexandria with four of my students. We grabbed a cab and the topic was The Post's interview with Ewing and was Ewing going to the pros? All of a sudden, this big, heavy cab driver, a black guy about 55, says, 'I hope to hell he has sense enough not to do that.'
"Here's this guy who is several thousand miles removed from Georgetown, and he's fussing about an athlete whom he thinks ought to get his education. He says, 'Or he'll end up doing something stupid like me.' A straight, honest guy. That just enchanted the hell out of me.
". . . It's a relief to say there's a real town here and it's responding the way New Yorkers respond to St. John's or Fordham or Columbia.
"Once these 10 kids are on the basketball court, you are watching one of the few things in any society which is just as clean as a whistle and which is solidly, humanly good."