There would be
the small matter of being a Thompson at Georgetown. But he has proved to be an
adept curator of tradition. "I want those two trees there to shade me,"
John III told an interviewer in New Jersey earlier this season, referring to
Coach and Pops. "I'll hide in the shadows."
boss at Princeton, Walters, likes to share with his coaches a copy of Walt
Whitman's Song of Myself. When he does, he highlights this stanza:
I am the teacher
of athletes, He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own proves the width
of my own, He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the
are mentors understand those lines," Walters says. "You don't want
replicates. You want originals. We're the sum total of the major influences in
our life, but John is also his own man.
"By the way,
one of the next lines is, 'My words itch at your ears till you understand
Georgetown are braided through Thompson's life, and it was at the expense of
one and for the other that he had already scored his greatest recruiting coup.
When John III was a Princeton freshman, his resident adviser asked him to host
a high school senior from New Jersey—a young woman who was leaning toward
Georgetown, believing Princeton to be too close to home. He showed her around
campus, and she enrolled. "There wasn't even much of a conversation,"
Monica Moore Thompson recalls of the first time they met. "It boiled down
to, 'Go to Princeton.'" By his senior year they were an item.
In May 1997 they
were married in the chapel on campus. During her husband's days as a coach at
Princeton, Monica worked in the university's development office, but with their
move to D.C. she stopped working briefly while he guided the Hoyas to the NIT
his first season.
diagnosis with breast cancer came during a routine physical on the eve of the
2005--06 season. The next few weeks were a blur of emotions, obligations and
uncertainty for the whole family. But she was there for the season opener at
Navy on Nov. 18, having driven to Annapolis with the three Thompson children:
daughter Morgan, now 10, and sons, John Wallace, 6, and Matthew, 4. The
following week she prepared Thanksgiving dinner for the team—just as she'd done
every year since John had become a head coach—even though she was booked for
surgery the next day. (The players didn't learn of her diagnosis until several
days later.) "John and I had talked about him taking a leave," Monica
says. "His dad mentioned it too. In the end we decided against it."
ran concurrently with the basketball season, from December to March. The night
before a home loss to Vanderbilt, John III slept at the hospital in a recliner
at her bedside. Says Monica, "Looking back, he says that was the least
prepared he'd ever been for any game as a player or coach."
Her husband never
missed a session of chemo all season, even as the Hoyas knocked off No. 1 Duke
in January and reached the Sweet 16. "He would go to the doctor's office,
to practice, back to the doctor's," says Ronny, John III's younger brother.
"But John has an incredible ability to handle a lot of things and keep it
all together. He's like our mom. He's very gathered."