The Denver Nuggets have put an offer worth more than $6 million on the table for John Thompson if he would take total control of the NBA team's basketball operations, ending his coaching career after 18 seasons and 423 victories at Georgetown. The question is whether Thompson will accept.
Under the offer, Thompson, 48, would receive an annual salary of $700,000 for five years and could receive about four percent of the club's ownership if he stays with Denver the length of the contract, sources said. Industry sources place the value of the Nuggets at $70 million, meaning Thompson's ownership share would amount to $2.8 million, for a total package of $6.3 million.
Basketball sources outside Washington expect Thompson likely will take the Nuggets' offer, citing the stress of coaching and recruiting in college basketball. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime offer," said one NBA executive. "He won't have to coach; there won't be as much pressure; and it'll be a new challenge."
But Georgetown officials who asked not to be identified are hopeful Thompson will remain with the Hoyas. They are counting on his allegiance to the school and the Washington community. They also point to previous offers, such as a lucrative one made by Oklahoma a decade ago and more recently from the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics and the New York Knicks.
Thompson could not be reached for comment yesterday, but on Thursday he denied the report and Sunday told USA Today: "I would say I'll be coaching at Georgetown next year. We are exploring our options."
But there are several indications that Thompson is strongly leaning toward accepting the offer.
"Negotiations with John are close, but you never know about these things," said Bob Wussler, one of the team's owners who met with Thompson in Washington Sunday night.
One source said, "Thompson is a favorite to take it," and another said he was 99 percent sure Thompson would accept. Sources said that contracts are "being drawn up by the lawyers" and they expect an announcement by the end of this week or early next week.
Thompson originally rejected an offer from the Nuggets when he first was approached by the team, which has the only minority ownership in pro sports. The team's managing general partner, Peter Bynoe, is a broadcasting executive.
But when the Nuggets came back a second time last week and included the ownership deal, Thompson became more interested.
Thompson's final decision is not all that is holding up an announcement. The Nuggets, league sources said, likely would change coaches to allow Thompson to hire his own people. Coach Doug Moe said yesterday he had not been informed of any plans.
Sources said that it is likely the Nuggets would get rid of Moe and perhaps others before announcing Thompson's hiring.
If Thompson would leave, his assistants, Craig Esherick and Mike Riley, would each be a contender to succeed him.
Sources said that Mary Fenlon, who has been Thompson's No. 1 lieutenant since she came with him from St. Anthony's High School in 1972, would accompany him to Denver in some administrative capacity.
Thompson's decision to consider leaving the sidelines comes less than a month after he checked into Georgetown University hospital for three days for what he called a rountine checkup. He said he has been suffering from hypertension and noted, "Coaching basketball is a hypertension job."