- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Georgetown heads to Atlanta with a major piece of basketball business dangling amid the frenzy of the Final Four.

As the Hoyas prepare for their first Final Four since 1985, Georgetown still has not announced a raise or contract extension for coach John Thompson III, and the coach’s future with the school remains something of an elephant in the room.

Thompson has two years left on a deal that pays him an annual salary of $456,000, according to the university’s 990 tax form. That salary ranks 11th among the 15 current Big East coaches and stands as a glaring discrepancy considering Thompson ranks fourth in the conference in regular season winning percentage (72-29, .713) and third in NCAA tournament winning percentage (6-3, .667).

Georgetown athletic director Bernard Muir yesterday declined to comment on the subject.

Sources close to Thompson indicated the coach has been approached by several different NBA franchises in the last year, most recently receiving overtures from the Charlotte Bobcats, who are owned by District native and BET founder Robert Johnson.

Those sources also said yesterday Thompson is not immediately interested in acting on those potential offers. But the Final Four serves as an unofficial convention for coaches and athletic directors. Given plum openings such as the Michigan job, more schools might begin knocking on Thompson’s door this weekend.

Muir spent more than an hour in a meeting with Georgetown president Jack DeGioia yesterday, but was unwilling to confirm if the meeting concerned either Thompson’s future or a possible new contract offer for the 41-year-old coach.

Thompson, nearing the end of his third season with Georgetown, is neither a chest-thumper nor a desk-pounder. He’s not a man to make pecuniary demands, in large part because he doesn’t think he should have to beg for just desserts. Demonstrating that side of his personality, Thompson chose not to address the issue yesterday before practice.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” one Big East coach said when shown the disparity between Thompson’s salary and his accomplishments. “It’s not rocket science. The numbers don’t add up.”

Thompson’s legendary father, the original architect behind the program, was outspoken on the subject of finances at Georgetown’s recent Centennial Gala on Feb. 24, imploring those in attendance to help his son build the practice facility needed to help the Hoyas keep pace with other Big East schools. Almost every school in the conference boasts vastly superior facilities.

The elder Thompson, who still makes $440,000 a year from the university in deferred salary, has consistently claimed his son can’t maintain his established standard of excellence and recruiting prowess when placed at such a categorical disadvantage in on-campus resources.

Some insiders wondered why the administration didn’t lock Thompson up with a long-term contract after last season, when Georgetown exceeded expectations by reaching the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16. The administration had another chance to address the issue earlier this month after Georgetown won its first outright Big East regular season title since 1989. But Muir ducked the issue when asked before the Big East tournament, questioning the timing of the inquiry.

This much is certain: The students, many of whom wear shirts sporting the Roman numeral III in homage to the coach, have long since cast their lots with Thompson. And the university could experience another Craig Esherick-era student protest if the administration jeopardizes its future with the beloved coach.

“We need JT3. He’s galvanized the student body and the community,” said Georgetown student David Loebsack, a senior in the School of Business. “This team is the public face of our university. For Georgetown to possibly let something happen under the radar and not have resolved this instability is a huge letdown — for the team, the students and the alumni.”

These are heady times at Georgetown, and the most meaningful plays concerning the program might take place well before Saturday night’s tip-off.

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