Georgetown Coach John Thompson, who turned down an offer to coach the Seattle SuperSonics Monday night, said yesterday he could be persuaded to take a job in professional basketball "if the conditions were right for me."
Thompson met for what he described as a "a long time" Monday night in Washington with Lenny Wilkens, Seattle's general manager and former coach, who also interviewed Washington Bullets assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff yesterday. "I told him thank you, I was not interested in it the way it's structured," Thompson said.
"My conception of coaching at that level is that it's not realistic to just coach the team and not select the players. It's not realistic to not select the staff. Lenny is an old friend, and we talked a long time about that. I still don't have it set in my mind exactly how I would want to structure it, but I'd have to be more than just the coach on the court."
Thompson was asked if it now could be assumed he will return to coach a 14th season at Georgetown next year.
"I didn't say that," he said. "I just said I told Seattle no yesterday, that's all."
Thompson has a 297-107 record at Georgetown. His team won the national championship in 1984, and was runner-up in 1982 and this season. He repeated what he had said at the Patrick Ewing press conference Monday, that he had been contacted by three NBA teams about coaching. But he declined to name the other two. Thompson also said Wilkens had contacted him about an hour after the NBA draft lottery Sunday to ask him to interview for the Seattle job.
"That was very flattering," Thompson said, in light of stories last week indicating that Seattle would approach Thompson if the SuperSonics won the lottery and took Ewing with the first choice in the draft. "That indicated to me they were sincerely interested in me, and I appreciated that."
Thompson said he was "greatly impressed with how self-assured and confident Lenny was. He's had great success as a player and as a coach, and he did a lot of the talking . . . Lenny is somebody I could work with, definitely, but I've said no to them.
"I just want to have the responsibility. I know the coach and the general manager do things jointly in a lot of these situations, but you don't coach jointly. The coach is also the one to get the blame, and I feel if you're not going to share the blame, then let me determine the things that will make me succeed or fail on my own."
Wilkens said he would not comment on his talks with Thompson, Bickerstaff or with anyone else. "These are just preliminary things," he said. "I have not decided on anybody or anything."
Georgetown Athletic Director Frank Rienzo, asked Monday about the interest in Thompson, said, "I encourage all of the members of my staff to examine existing opportunities. I don't see these offers as competition for us. It's simply a matter of what a person wants to do with his life."
Bickerstaff wants to be a head coach. He just completed his 12th season as an assistant with the Bullets, and said his two-hour breakfast with Wilkens went well. He said he was optimistic about his chances of being hired but added, "What I think isn't as important as what Lenny and the people in Seattle are thinking."
Bickerstaff said Wilkens told him he would be in contact with him at a later date but was not specific. "You can't subscribe to class and Lenny's a classy guy," Bickerstaff said. "Whenever he decides that he wants to talk is fine."
Bickerstaff said the discussion was primarily about basketball philosophy and that their ideas seemed to be compatible in general. "The worst thing you can do is stand on the outside and try to evaluate the personnel on someone else's team," he said. "But when we talked I think there was an element of respect between our points of view."
Sources in Washington state say the leading candidate may be Iowa's George Raveling, a former head coach at Washington State University, assistant coach at Maryland and Wilkens' second cousin. Others mentioned include former Chicago General Manager Rod Thorn and Tennessee Coach Don DeVoe.