Two words will follow the Georgetown basketball team everywhere it goes this winter: "pressure" and "complacency."
Hoyas Coach John Thompson brought all-America Patrick Ewing and Bill Martin here today for the Big East's annual conference media day, and they couldn't escape the big questions.
"I keep hearing those words come one behind the other," Thompson said. "People tell me there is more pressure, but I don't know that there is. I'll tell you this: there's less pressure now that we have the players than there was 10 years ago when we didn't."
Because Georgetown has most of its players back from last year's 34-3 team, most preseason prognosticators have ranked the Hoyas No. 1 in the nation.
That's why Sport magazine's decision to rank St. John's No. 1 drew quite a reaction -- primarily surprise -- here in a Manhattan hotel ballroom.
The magazine's college basketball issue, which was released here today, pictures Ewing, arms folded, frowning down on a smiling Chris Mullin of St. John's. The headline reads, "Smile If You're No. 1."
St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca, on seeing the issue, laughed hysterically, walked up to the author and said, "Thank you. Now tell me what you've been smoking."
Carnesecca reminded everyone how his team won only 18 games last year, lost twice to Georgetown, and was pushed by Seton Hall and Providence.
"I hope he's right," Carnesecca said. "Maybe he knows something I don't know. Hey, if you do, tell me now. Otherwise, I think No. 1 has got to be Georgetown, realistically and in my heart."
That was the consensus of the nine coaches here, seven of whom picked Georgetown to win the conference, with the two remaining first-place votes going to St. John's.
Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim, whose team was picked to finish third, said, "If you're going to pick a team to win the national championship, you go with the team that has the best center in the country, normally.
"And Ewing's far and away the best center in the country, maybe the best in all of basketball, not just college. And they've got the other veterans. They should be better this year than they were last year."
Boston College Coach Gary Williams said, "If there's anybody who can motivate a team and prevent complacency it's John Thompson. And that's the key -- to keep them motivated now -- because when the games start, it won't be a problem. But this time of year determines how good you are, usually. I think Georgetown . . . probably has a decent chance to repeat."
Of the rankings, Thompson said, "They're a lot of fun for the sporting public. They should be done because people enjoy them. But as a coach, I've never given a lot of attention to them."
Thompson then reflected on the national championship, Georgetown's first.
"It's the damndest thing in the world," he said. "Emotional control is a great thing, but at the same time it can be a killjoy.
"You get so accustomed to saying, 'Keep it in perspective, fellows. Let's not cry and kick lockers when we lose and let's not jump around and act too crazy when we win.' You're controlling all these emotions, and it wasn't until late in the summer, you sit there and you say, 'Goddamn, we did it, we won it.'
"And you yell out and holler like hell, act like a crazy man. So, it was everything I thought it would be. It's a feeling of completion. I feel very grateful to the players I've had who put us in that position."
When Thompson was asked what it took to win the title, he looked to his right, grabbed Ewing in a playful necklock and said, "Here it is."
Several times, Thompson referred to his star 7-footer as Coach Ewing, in reference to Ewing's suggestion during the NCAA tournament game against SMU that he move up to the foul line when a teammate was taking a free throw, rather than take his customary position down court on defense. Ewing, of course, tipped in a miss and Georgetown won narrowly. "It takes all kinds of little things to win a national championship," Thompson said.