With Georgetown playing in Providence, R.I., this weekend, the nation's Hoyas-watchers are about to begin a familiar game: Guess Where Georgetown's Staying? Alumni, fans and, especially, news reporters want to know where to find the Hoyas. And the Hoyas aren't telling.
Maybe this year it's Willimantic, Conn., 66 miles from the site of the games, or perhaps 30 miles closer, in Swansea, Mass. Or how about Woonsocket, R.I., a mere 14 miles from the Providence Civic Center?
Coach John Thompson said recently that he and his players have quite a bit of fun over people's fascination with why Thompson chooses not to keep the team in designated hotels, placing them away from the publicity and attention. One man, who attempted to follow the Hoyas back to their hotel near Albuquerque last December, got a wild goose chase through the desert.
Georgetown's most notable attempt to avoid distractions came three years ago during the Final Four weekend in New Orleans. Thompson had his team stay in Biloxi, Miss. "I had no idea there were beaches and palm trees in Mississippi," former Hoya Ed Spriggs said yesterday.
There have been several occassions when the Hoyas were reported staying 50 miles away and their headquarters were, in fact, almost next door to the arena. Thompson and several Georgetown players, past and present, talked recently about what they really do on the road.
"We practice about the same amount of time," junior guard Michael Jackson said, "but we usually wake up earlier -- real early. It's a long day; it's not hours and hours of sitting around the hotel. Plus, after practice and dinner, you have to study."
Spriggs said, "I spent most of my time trying to recuperate from injuries we got in practice. And we just watch so much film. I never got so tired of film in all my life. We'd check into the hotel, then a half-hour later, you had to meet to watch film. You'd thought you'd seen it all. You're so tired by March, anyway, you're drained. But there was always more film to review.
"Usually, it's the freshmen who wanted to be in the center of things, and where we stayed, (near) Rhode Island, there were nothing but sea gulls. And (in 1982) we spent 11 days in Utah (during the NCAA West Regional). Both places it was beautiful. But you're not talking about having a whole lot to get into."
During the tournament, most teams stay at hotels designated by the NCAA and the host school. Not Georgetown.
"It's not because what we do is a secret, but because of how I feel comfortable teaching," said Thompson. "I just feel most comfortable coaching in a private situation."
Those who are veterans of Thompson's system, such as senior center Ralph Dalton, say that privacy is an immense help at tournament time. "I think the biggest thing that makes a difference for us is that we are able to keep our concentration during the tournament," he said. "That's an important part of postseason, having a chance to get your mind set. The way Coach Thompson does it (on the road) allows you to do that. Especially now. The pressure really builds.
"We don't do anything that different. It's nice to have your privacy. If you're in the middle of things, the thick of things, at everyone's disposal, it's not as easy to concentrate."
Spriggs said that, after a while, the players realize, "You're staying in those places (designated schools) with alumni, and everybody wants to talk to you about something. And you think, 'I wish I could just be alone.' There's school and the game and practice. And you really begin to appreciate that Coach Thompson takes one aspect of the pressure off by not keeping us where the happenings are. You don't need it, anyway."
Some of the players, usually freshmen, assume they don't need the cultural stimulation Thompson encourages -- probably demands -- on long road trips. "We spend some time going to museums or something cultural," guard Gene Smith, an integral part of last year's championship team, said. "When guys are freshmen and somebody mentions going to a museum or something, they say, 'Oh, man, I don't want to see this mess.'
"But by the time you're a junior or senior you really appreciate it. I remember going to Villanova and there was a museum holding the King Tut exhibit down the street and we went. In Las Vegas, people probably thought we were hanging out in the casinos all the time, but we went somewhere in Nevada once to see a new dam that was being built. And in Hawaii last year, we went to study some volcanos."
It was only last December, when Georgetown was playing at the University of New Mexico, that someone thought he would find out where the team was staying by following it from the gymnasium. "We just went on a little trip," Thompson said, breaking into laughter. "We laughed like hell. Just before we went into the hotel, the cars split in about five different directions and just left the guy sitting in the middle of the road not knowing what to do.
"You gotta laugh at it."
Smith said he finds it hard to believe that so many people still make such a big deal out of what Georgetown does on road trips.
"It looks like we're being arrogant, but that's not it," he said. "I think the press should, since they're representing the public, have access to the teams and the players. But we don't have to be right in the eye of it . . .
"Coach Thompson just wants everybody concentrating, without the distractions. You know what? I was captain two years ago and now I don't even know where the team stays."