Princeton Hires John Thompson III

Thursday, September 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PRINCETON, N.J.--Even though his name is John Thompson, don't expect to see the new Princeton men's basketball coach sitting on the bench with a towel draped over his shoulder.

That was his father's trademark.

John Thompson III is going to bring his own style to coaching, even if some of it was nurtured by the Hall of Fame coach who built Georgetown into a basketball power.

The younger Thompson was hired as Princeton's new coach Wednesday, less than 24 hours after it was disclosed that Bill Carmody was leaving the Ivy League school to become coach of Northwestern of the Big Ten.

This will be the first head coaching job for the 34-year-old Thompson, an assistant coach the past five years at Princeton under Pete Carril and Carmody.

"He's got a challenge," John Thompson said Wednesday during the "The John Thompson Show," his WTEM sports radio talk program in Washington. "I'm proud as a father."

Princeton scheduled a news conference for Thursday to introduce its new coach.

Thompson has three starters returning from a team that went 19-11 last season and lost in the first round of the NIT to Penn State.

However, the Tigers sustained a major loss a little more than a week ago when unanimous All-Ivy League center Chris Young signed a baseball contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Unlike the NCAA, the Ivy League does not allow athletes who sign a professional contract in one sport to play in another.

"He's well respected," Young said. "He's a good guy and he knows what he is doing. He's very easy to talk to. I think he'll be a players' coach."

Young thinks Thompson won't make many changes in Princeton's patient style of basketball which stresses defense, 3-point shooting and those great backdoor layups.

However, the new coach will have to find a way to compensate for the team's lack of size with Young ineligible.

Thompson played at Princeton and graduated in 1988. A forward, he was co-captain his senior year and shared the team's MVP award that year as the Tigers went 17-9.

The older Thompson was at his son's home in Princeton during the radio broadcast Wednesday. He laughed about all the telephone calls he received from his son complaining about how much he hated things during his first two years at the school.

That all changed in his final two years, the former Georgetown coach said, and no one could say anything bad about Princeton in front of his son.

The younger Thompson fell in love with the school, married a woman from Princeton and bought a house next to the university, the father said.

Getting the head coaching job also proved to be a matter of being in the right place at the right time for John Thompson III, who has also served as the Princeton junior varsity coach the past four years.

Joe Scott, who was Carmody's top assistant, left after last season to coach Air Force, moving Thompson up the ladder.

Carmody, who had a 92-25 record in his four years as coach at Princeton, was replaced Kevin O'Neill, who resigned five days ago to become an assistant with the New York Knicks.

Matching the success of his father will be tough for Thompson.

The elder Thompson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame last year and had a 596-239 record before stepping down as Georgetown's coach on Jan. 8, 1999. The midseason move was made because the elder Thompson was going through a divorce and felt he could not devote as much time as he wanted to basketball.

At Georgetown, Thompson guided the Hoyas to 20 NCAA tournaments, including 14 straight, earned three Final Four berths and won a national championship in 1984. His teams had a 97 percent graduation rate and 26 players were taken in the NBA draft. He was also the 1988 U.S. Olympic team coach.