- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

On the way to yesterday's postgame news conference at MCI Center, Georgetown basketball coach Craig Esherick apparently zipped into a convenient phone booth, ripped off his usual mild public manner and emerged as Supergripe.
Confronting assorted media wretches, Esherick yelled, yowled, pounded the lectern and even knocked over a microphone. His topic was the pounding star forward Mike Sweetney had absorbed in the Hoyas' 84-82 overtime Big East victory against scrappy West Virginia and especially the loose officiating that had permitted it.
I can't report everything he said because his outburst shorted out my tape recorder, but a few sentences should give you the idea:
"Mike Sweetney isn't 32 years old, he isn't 46 years old, he isn't 50 years old he's a 20-year-old college kid, and to expect him to put up with that kind of contact in the post and not have the referees call a foul it's wrong, it's unfair. He absolutely shouldn't have to countenance putting up with that, and if anybody wants me to spell that, I will. We're not running a good league. I'll pay for any official who wants to come to Washington, D.C., and watch the [game] tape with me. I'll pay for any official who wants to come to Washington, D.C., and sit in the post and take what Mike has to take. He should go to the foul line 50 times a game. It's not all right, and it's got to stop. It's got to stop. It's got to stop. I'm sick and tired of the way he's treated in our league."
Pausing to catch his breath, Esherick then said quietly, "Aside from that, I'm happy we won," and answered a few routine questions about the game. Suddenly, though, he was back on the topic of Sweetney and the refs and adding, "I don't expect to be coaching the next game [because of an anticipated league fine]."
After leaving the media room, Esherick spotted Art Hyland, the Big East's coordinator of officials, outside the Georgetown locker room and began shouting at him. Hyland attempted to reply, but Esherick kept shouting. When conference commissioner Mike Tranghese gets to work this morning, he'll undoubtedly find a report dealing with Esherick's conduct on his desk. Happy Monday, Mike.
Meanwhile, Sweetney, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound behemoth from Oxon Hill who almost certainly is the best power forward in the Hoyas' history, sat quietly in the locker room and shrugged off the pounding he received in the paint from the extremely physical Mountaineers.
"I can't do anything about it, so I just keep playing," he said. Which probably is sensible, because without him the Hoyas might be a .500 team instead of a potential contender in the wide-open Big East race. Yesterday, for instance, Sweetney had 35 points, 19 rebounds, four assists and five blocked shots in 41 minutes while avoiding the foul trouble that has plagued him at times. As basketball games go, it was a fair day's work.
All things considered, though, Georgetown fans are advised not to save for Final Four tickets despite the team's 9-2 record. In yesterday's conference opener, the Hoyas nearly lost at home to a West Virginia team that starts three freshmen and two sophomores and has five count 'em, five walk-ons taking up space on coach John Beilein's bench.
Yet if not for Tony Bethel's 3-pointer from the left side that tied the game 74-74 with 2.1 seconds left in regulation, Georgetown would have left the court hanging its collective head, at least psychologically. The Hoyas looked ready to sprint away from the visitors several times but never did, perhaps because they are a significantly flawed team.
For one thing, Georgetown has no point guard anywhere near the quality of departed Kevin Braswell. Bethel and Drew Hall, alternating at that key position yesterday, accumulated two assists and four turnovers numbers that should have upset Esherick as much as the officiating. Too many of the Hoyas have bad hands, as attested by 22 team turnovers. Their shooting is erratic; they bombed away at a 38-percent clip in the first half yesterday. And they don't rebound well as a team once Sweetney is taken out of the mix.
It's possible that Bethel's clutch basketball at the end of regulation and two free throws for an 84-80 lead with eight seconds left in overtime saved the Hoyas' season, at least momentarily. But every team on the schedule knows that Sweetney is Georgetown, so it's likely that Esherick's tirade was designed to buy Mike a little help from the zebras in subsequent contests.
And heaven knows this team needs all the help it can get. The Hoyas are deep, tall and tough, but it remains to be seen how truly talented they are.

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