- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 6, 2004

Georgetown has lost seven games in a row. The Hoyas are in danger of not qualifying for the Big East tournament for the first time in 25 years. Still, coach Craig Esherick claimed yesterday most people would say “Georgetown is lucky to have him.”

One day before the Hoyas (13-13, 4-11 Big East) take on Virginia Tech (13-13, 6-9) in their regular-season finale at MCI Center, Esherick responded to mounting negative criticism by defending the job he and his staff have done. Georgetown will try to avoid the school’s second losing season since 1972-73.

“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.’”

Esherick made his comments one day after university president John J. DeGioia met with Esherick and 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 a statement. “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.”

The Hoyas’ longest losing streak in more than 30 years has prompted talk by fans about firing Esherick. However, at the end of last season Georgetown extended his contract through 2009. Any buyout of a long-term deal would be expensive for Georgetown’s athletic department.

“I think that if you evaluate me using the yardstick of a pro coach, I think it’s dishonest, I think it’s inaccurate and I think it’s unfair,” Esherick said.

“And I’m not going to deal with those expectations because that’s not what I do. I think that I’m here to coach college kids. To try and help them get through college. To help define what college is about. To try and do what I can to make certain they get a Georgetown degree and to win basketball games.”

Regardless of what happens today, Georgetown is guaranteed of finishing with its worst Big East record since the league began in 1979-80.

“Winning basketball games … don’t get me wrong, there’s nobody that wants to win — no alum, no fan, no player, no coach — that wants to win more than me, and there’s nobody that losing has a greater effect on,” Esherick said.

“Every night when I go home, I have to remind myself that I’m coaching college basketball players. I’m at a university, and I’m not a professional basketball coach. As long as I keep that in perspective, that I know the type of job that I’m doing and I work for two men [DeGioia and athletic director Joe Lang] that understand that far better, then I do what the job is that they want their college basketball coach to do.”

Esherick’s teams have struggled the most in conference play, going 41-54 in the Big East since he replaced Hall of Fame coach John Thompson in January 1999. That record has translated into only one NCAA tournament appearance (2000-01).

If Georgetown loses to Virginia Tech today and Miami beats West Virginia, the Hurricanes will claim the Big East tournament’s 12th seed over the Hoyas. If that scenario plays out, Georgetown would join St. John’s as the first charter members of the Big East to fail to qualify for the league’s annual tournament.

“I don’t run away from and don’t want people to think that I don’t want to win,” Esherick said. “I want to win a national championship. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking that if I don’t win a national championship, I can’t coach. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking that it’s not important for our players to get degrees from Georgetown. I would not want my two sons to play for somebody in college that only wanted to win a national championship and didn’t understand the value of a college education and didn’t understand the value of the growth from your freshman to your senior year.

“I’m happy and fortunate that I have two sons because they give me a perspective in relation to what I want to accomplish here at this university. I can’t let other people define what I do.”

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