Three days after losing to North Carolina in the championship game of the NCAA tournament, Georgetown University's basketball team came home yesterday to the music of a brass band and the cheering and chanting of between 3,500 and 5,000 fans gathered at the main entrance of the campus.
"Thanks for a great season," Rev. Timothy S. Healy, Georgetown's president, told the players. "Thanks for the best championship basketball game this nation will ever see. Thanks for taking us farther in NCAA competition than we've been in 200 years."
"We love you and you love us. We're just sorry we didn't bring back a trophy," senior all-America Eric Floyd told the crowd.
Coach John Thompson said, "In order for any program to be successful it has to have some community spirit, and you reflect that today."
As Thompson strode to the microphones, the crowd began chanting "DEE-FENSE, DEE-FENSE," but Thompson lifted his hands to quiet them. "We need to save some of that for next year," Thompson said, then added, "I've never coached a group of young men that I've been more proud of."
Since Monday's 63-62 loss to North Carolina, Thompson said, his players have spent many hours talking about the season that just ended and discussing next season.
"One of the things we've made our minds up is that we don't like being second best," Thompson said. "We're going to be trying to do some new things next year."
On a warm and sunny spring afternoon, students, faculty members and Hoya fans from all over the area began gathering at Healy Circle, just inside the university's main gate, about an hour before the team was scheduled to arrive. Many carried welcome home signs, and some waved pom-pons as they chanted and cheered while waiting for the team bus.
A banner that read, "Hoyas No. 1 In Our Hearts," seemed to sum up the crowd's mood.
As the bus rolled through the main gate at 37th and O Streets NW, the crown began sustained cheering and it took several minutes for the bus to navigate the 100-yard distance to the Healy building where microphones had been set up.
"No group of students has succeeded in capturing the hearts of their fellow students like you guys have," Len Schoppa, vice president of the student government, told the team.
"This team has taken the name of Georgetown, not just the university, but the community and brought it across the country," said Richard McCooey, president of the Georgetown Business and Professional Association.
Speaking on behalf of the team, reserve guard Ron Blaylock said, "we'd like to thank you for coming out. This is a beautiful sight. We've never seen anything like it, not even in New Orleans."