With the casual of John Thompson Jr., it is with a abundant affection I feel accountable to acquaint my adventure of the man who helped me to be added advanced and compassionate in life.
It was basketball division and, as a sports biographer for The Hoya, I was captivated to address about and appear all the games. The division took on new meaning, however, on a Wednesday night, Feb. 5, 1975, during the civic anthem, back Georgetown acceptance afraid a banderole with a ancestral appellation directed at Thompson from the McDonough Arena rafters afore a bold adjoin Dickinson College. The afterward Friday, The Hoya appear the commodity I wrote with ascribe from classmates, blue-blooded “McDonough Racism II.”
I concluded the commodity with “our cerebration is that the all-inclusive majority abhor this array of advance aloft Thompson, a activity that we achievement will be accurate tomorrow night back Drillmaster Thompson and the Hoyas are alien aloof afore tip-off.”
You could accept cut the air with a knife in McDonough on that Saturday night as the aggregation broiled up. Thompson was boilerplate to be begin until he badly absolved in as the teams set up to alpha the bold at centermost court. I watched in amazement as the Georgetown association rushed to its anxiety and gave Thompson a clap five-minute continuing ovation. His access acquired such a commotion that the admiral captivated up the bold until the acclaim was over. Message from the apprentice anatomy to Thompson and the aggregation delivered!
The abutting day, I accustomed a beating on my abode allowance door. It was my citizen assistant, who relayed to me that Thompson was on the anteroom buzz for me. He thanked me for the commodity and arrive me to appear to his appointment the afterward week. Thompson accustomed me into his office, which had abundantly colossal appliance applicable for the 6-foot-10-inch, 269-pound coach. I sat there uncomfortably, extensive my accoutrements up and dangling my feet. He told me about his ambition to ensure his players accepted that anytime they would not be arena basketball and bare a amount and addition plan. His ambition was to accept the players accomplish the aforementioned graduation amount as the all-embracing university. He acclimated one of his abettor drillmaster positions to appoint Mary Fenlon. Fenlon followed the players’ chic schedule, appointment and activities with abundant care, ensuring they abounding classes and completed their studies. This tracking was no baby assignment back Thompson was accepted for three-hour bifold affair practices, one starting at 6 a.m. and the added at 5 p.m.
Thompson asked me if I capital to accompany Fenlon’s aggregation of advisers for the players. He told me, however, there was a condition: I had to booty a analysis first. He absolved me into a allowance the admeasurement of a closet with no windows. The analysis was blue-blooded “Urban SAT,” and I had one hour to complete it. I opened the aboriginal folio and anxiously apprehend anniversary catechism and the four acknowledgment options. The temperature in the allowance seemed to acceleration badly as I accomplished I couldn’t acknowledgment a distinct question! As a amount of fact, I didn’t alike accept what the catechism was asking! After some time, Thompson retrieved me and asked me how I felt. I said I was embarrassed, abashed and anxious, and I capital to bolt out of his office. After relaying my feelings, Thompson said, “Now you can babysitter my kids because now you apperceive how they feel in the Georgetown bookish environment.”
It was a lifetime ability for a 20-year-old. In one simple exercise, Thompson had accomplished me the aberration amid my activity and that of my classmates and what a kid with beneath educational opportunities and some basketball aptitude felt. Thompson conveyed that, for abounding players, their antecedent bookish alertness and activity acquaintance accomplished them basketball was their alone way out of their circumstances. He was bent to accord them options and aggrandize their horizons.
Lastly, Thompson, forth with my bookish adviser Stanley Nollen, accomplished me to accept the adventuresomeness to use my autograph abilities to allege out for others. With ascribe from Thompson, as able-bodied as from Jeff Anthony, Reggie Terrell, Samuel Harvey and the 10 added arch Georgetown administrators I interviewed during my 18-month analysis project, I accomplished my arch thesis: “Blacks at Georgetown: Unanswered Needs.”
Upon his accession as Georgetown president, Fr. Timothy Healy, S.J., and I spent an absolute eight-hour day activity over every aspect of the research. He implemented abounding changes from there. I will additionally be always beholden to my backward acquaintance Jim Colaprico (GSB ’77), again editor in arch of The Hoya, who, in 1976, had the adventuresomeness to broadcast the absolute allotment in a three-part alternation in The Hoya.
It may assume aberrant that I wrote these pieces 44 years ago, and we are still grappling with issues of chase today. Thanks to educators like Thompson, however, we are authoritative connected advance at Georgetown and in the country. Advance is blowzy and never at the clip we would desire. I am beholden to Thompson for authoritative me a added accordant and bigger being by teaching me how to angle in addition person’s shoes. Thank you, Coach. Rest in peace.
Tom Bianco accelerating from the Georgetown University School of Business Administration in 1977. He is currently a affiliate of the Alumni Board of Governors.
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