NEWARK, N.J. — John Thompson III had just lost his fourth straight game and sixth in seven attempts. With his head down, he walked across the floor of the Prudential Center toward the Georgetown locker room.
“Good luck in the tournament, coach,” a security guard said to him as he walked away.
That would be the Big East Tournament since the Hoyas will likely miss out on the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. It’s no coincidence that the calls for JT3’s firing are growing louder by the day.
With their 62-59 loss at Seton Hall on Tuesday, the Hoyas are now 14-16, 5-12 in the Big East heading into their regular-season finale against No. 2 Villanova on Saturday at the Verizon Center. In his last two seasons, JT3 is 29-34 overall, 12-23 in the Big East.
Barring a run in the Big East Tournament, JT3 looks like he will preside over back-to-back losing seasons.
Before this, Georgetown hadn’t suffered back-to-back losing seasons since the early 1970s — and that coach was fired.
“I’m not sure I can put into words how frustrating it’s been,” JT3 said in a hushed tone in response to a question from FanRagSports.com. “But the kids are still fighting and no one in that locker room has packed in the season yet. The kids are still fighting and so we’re going to take the rest of this week, get ready for ‘Nova on Saturday and then get ready for New York [the Big East Tournament].”
Those around the program don’t think it’s likely that JT3 will be fired after this season.
Keep in mind that Big John Thompson, JT3’s father, is a legendary figure who led the program to its only national championship in 1984 and the school just opened a new state-of the-art building in his honor, the John Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletic Center.
Firing JT3 could cause more problems around Georgetown than it might solve.
Still, the signs are not good for JT3.
Georgetown hasn’t introduced its head coach by name at home games all season.
On Saturday, when the Hoyas lost to St. John’s at Madison Square Garden, students held up a “FireJT3” banner. You can read about it on the Twitter account entitled, “Did JT3 Get Fired?”
Georgetown students have also petitioned for his firing, with reportedly over 700 signatures.
— Did JT3 Get Fired? (@Fire_JT3) February 25, 2017
“First and foremost, our fans are terrific and have been terrific,” JT3 said in a statement released by the school about his job status. “They’ve experienced some good times with us, and now, with the stretch we are having, I understand their frustration. There is no one more frustrated than I am. We are accustomed to winning. I know that our players and staff are working hard and playing hard. No one cares more about this program and its tradition than I do.”
Reggie Cameron, a senior guard from Hudson (N.J.) Catholic, said the mounting losses — and the calls for the coach’s job — have taken a toll on JT3, but that the players are ultimately responsible.
“Yeah, but he’s a calm guy,” Cameron told FanRagSports.com. “He comes into practice every day just like it was the day before, like nothing’s happened, and that’s not on him. We’re the guys out here playing so we gotta take the responsibility.”
Defenders of JT3 will tell you he has been to eight NCAA Tournaments and won three Big East championships, which is true.
But his last NCAA Tournament appearance came in 2015 and he hasn’t been past the third round since making the Final Four in 2007.
CBS ran a graphic in January showing the disparity between his record in his first nine seasons versus his last four.
In his first nine seasons, the Hoyas had a winning percentage of .701; since then it’s .535.
In his first nine, his Big East winning percentage was .635; since then it’s .361.
Moreover, as the website CasualHoya.com noted, JT3 produced a first-round NBA Draft pick in eight of his first nine years. Since 2013, when Otto Porter left after his sophomore season, the program has produced no NBA players.
That said, junior guard L.J. Peak is a projected late second-round pick in 2017 per DraftExpress.com and sophomore big man Jessie Govan is a projected second-rounder in 2018.
Four-star point guard Tremont Waters — who said the staff told him he could be the next Allen Iverson — comes in next season.
All JT3 and the players can do now is try to beat Villanova on Saturday, and then try to make a run in New York.
“It’s rough but coach tells us this is an easy time to be divided as a team and stuff like that which we’re not going to do,” Cameron said. “We got another home game and then anything can happen in the Big East Tournament so we’re just getting ready for that.”
Still, if the Hoyas get blown out by Villanova or lose early in the Big East Tournament, expect the drumbeat for JT3’s firing to grow even louder.
Adam Zagoria is a basketball insider who has run ZAGSBLOG.com since 2006. He is a college basketball contributor for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the co-host of The Four Quarters Podcast via VSporto.com, which is available via iTunes. Zagoria is also a contributor to The New York Times. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.