I watched the Big East Conference semifinal game between Georgetown and Syracuse from a seat near where Patrick Ewing attempted to remove the head of Pearl Washington, and I have since read various accounts of the altercation. My compliments to Curry Kirkpatrick (Georgetown Punches In, March 18) for being one of the few journalists who accurately described what transpired, i.e., a Ewing elbow precipitated the incident.
Kirkpatrick's contention that inconsistent officiating continues to damage the Big East's reputation as one of the nation's premier conferences is a valid one. If one of the league's younger, lesser-known coaches—Seton Hall's P.J. Carlesimo, for example—had behaved as boorishly as Hoya coach John Thompson, he probably would have been ejected.
After reading Curry Kirkpatrick's article on Georgetown's victories in the Big East tournament and then watching the Hoyas play, I see no reason for Georgetown to resort to intimidation and brawls to win games. The Hoyas are the most talented team in the country and would be ranked No. 1 even without such tactics. That John Thompson seems to be proud of this style of play only makes it more disheartening.
Although I consider Curry Kirkpatrick the finest college basketball writer around, and though I, too, have been critical of Georgetown's thuglike approach to the game, I call foul on his account of the Georgetown- Syracuse game. Kirkpatrick writes that Pearl Washington "retaliated" after " Ewing delivered one of his violent elbows upon Washington's jaw." I saw that elbow numerous times on instant replay, and contrary to Kirkpatrick's account, it appeared to be no more than a run-of-the-mill, under-the-basket push in traffic. Moreover, I noted that Georgetown guard Michael Jackson later defused the potentially explosive situation by kidding with Washington after Jackson was flattened by a typically Pearlesque spin move.
I cannot defend the Georgetown program on all counts. Hoya paranoia, as practiced by John Thompson, is usually excessive and often counterproductive. But in truth, this year's Hoya squad has been a wonder to watch—the starting lineup includes five superior college basketball players and plays with intensity. And the Hoyas often do it in an anti-Hoya, even racially charged atmosphere like that seen in Madison Square Garden. Under such circumstances, "incidents," while always undesired, can sometimes be expected. When they occur, blame should be apportioned fairly.
My fears that Curry Kirkpatrick wasn't going to get in his annual licks at John Thompson and the Georgetown Hoyas were set to rest with this article. Five years from now Kirkpatrick probably will find some way to mention Michael Graham in any story he may write about the Hoyas.
Georgetown plays hard and emotionally but no dirtier than any other team. What bothers so many people is that the Hoyas are serious about being the best and that they have been so successful at reaching their goal. Win or lose, as individuals and as a team, the Georgetown Hoyas are champions.
I object to the characterization of the Big East in Curry Kirkpatrick's article. He suggests that the conference's mighty reputation has been exaggerated by the prominence of Georgetown and St. John's. He says its non-conference schedule was weaker than those of other conferences.
Nonetheless, after two rounds of NCAA playoffs, four of six Big East teams were still alive. By way of comparison, one of six from the Big Ten, one of three from the Big Eight, three of five from the Atlantic Coast, three of five from the Southeast and zero of four from the Pac-10 were still around.
Regardless of the eventual outcome of the NCAA tournament, I believe the Big East has shown itself to be the toughest conference in the country.
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