- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Georgetown fired men’s basketball coach Craig Esherick last night in the wake of the Hoyas’ second losing season in more than 30 years.

Georgetown president John J. DeGioia’s decision came on the eve of a scheduled on-campus protest rally by Georgetown alumni upset with the direction the basketball program has taken. The Hoyas finished 13-15 under Esherick this season.

“After careful deliberation, I have decided that it is time to make a change in leadership in our men’s basketball program,” DeGioia said. “I am deeply grateful to Craig Esherick for his more than two decades of dedicated service to Georgetown University’s men’s basketball program, the last five and a half as head coach. He has worked tirelessly and honorably on Georgetown’s behalf throughout his career. I am very proud of our tradition of athletic success and academic integrity in men’s basketball.

“I am dedicated to sustaining that tradition of excellence, which means a great deal to our university community and the many fans of Georgetown basketball,” continued DeGioia. “We are deeply committed to the future success of men’s basketball as measured by maintaining national competitiveness with the leading programs in the Big East and the country. The newly composed Big East conference, which will add five universities (DePaul, Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette and South Florida) in 2005-06, will provide a terrific platform for Georgetown’s future success in men’s basketball. Looking forward, Georgetown will immediately begin a national effort to recruit a new head coach who will sustain a winning men’s basketball program while honoring the university’s commitment to the education of our student athletes.”

Esherick’s firing comes three weeks after DeGioia issued a statement to The Washington Times giving the coach a vote of confidence.

“I believe that this season’s men’s basketball team and our new class of recruits holds a great deal of promise,” DeGioia said in his statement to The Times. “I have confidence that Craig Esherick, who helped to build our tradition of excellence in men’s basketball, is the right person to strengthen and lead our program.”

Esherick went 103-74 in his six years as John Thompson’s successor, but just 41-53 in Big East play. Esherick led the Hoyas to just one NCAA tournament appearance in 2000-01 when the Hoyas went 25-8 and reached the Sweet 16.

Princeton coach John Thompson III, who is the eldest son of Georgetown’s former Hall of Fame coach, is considered a leading candidate for the Hoyas coaching vacancy after leading the Ivy League champion Tigers (20-7) to the NCAA tournament for the second time in his four seasons as coach.

John Thompson III has won three Ivy League championships in his four seasons at Princeton and employs classic pick-and-roll basketball that his predecessors Pete Carrill and Bill Carmody used to great success. Thompson III has gone 68-41 at his alma mater.

DeGioia’s decision comes as a surprise since he mentioned Georgetown’s promising incoming recruiting class as a reason for retaining Esherick. Georgetown gave Esherick a contract extension through 2009 last season when the Hoyas made a run to the NIT championship. By firing Esherick, Georgetown will have to buy out the remaining five years of his contract.

In a recent interview with The Times, Esherick said “Georgetown is lucky to have him.”

“When I came into this job, I don’t think there has been one day where everything has been sun and roses,” Esherick said. “If I’m evaluated as a college basketball coach and I’m evaluated as a professional basketball coach, I think that 99 percent of the people that would evaluate me and understand what a college basketball coach is supposed to do and understand what I’m supposed to do here at Georgetown, 99 percent of those people would say, ‘Craig has done a heck of a job over the last five years, and Georgetown is lucky to have him.’”

This season was the first time in 30 years that Georgetown was not invited to a postseason tournament and ended the season on a nine-game losing streak that tied a modern school record after the Hoyas opened the season 10-0.

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