April 27, 2004

Princeton Loses Head Coach

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The college basketball coaching carosel swept through the Ivy League last week, touching the staffs of both Princeton and Cornell.

The Tigers lost head coach John Thompson III to Georgetown University, a program that recieved national recognition under the watch of Thompson’s father. The elder Thompson, who now works as an NBA studio analyst, coached the Hoyas for 27 years and won the 1984 championship with future NBA All-Star Patrick Ewing.

After coaching against Thompson III for the past four Ivy League seasons, Cornell’s Steve Donahue knows that Georgetown made a good hire. “John can really coach. He’s done a great job at Princeton,” said Donahue. “He adjusted his coaching style to fit with Princeton’s traditions and figured out how to be successful. He deserves a lot of credit.”

Since taking over the Princeton program in 2000, Thompson III has amassed a 68-42 record. He led the Tigers to a 20-8 regular season record in 2003-04, going 13-1 in the Ivy League. Princeton lost to Texas in the first round of the 2004 NCAA tournament.

Though he shares a last name with a Hall-of-Fame coach, Thompson III is not afraid of making his own legend.

“I am John Thompson’s son. I have been John Thompson’s son for 38 years. I’m pretty comfortable being John Thompson’s son,” said Thompson III in an April 20th press release.

“People have to realize that college basketball is different now than it was in the 80s,” Donahue said. “The Big East is a tougher conference and to expect someone to step in and have the kind of effect that John’s father did right away is unfair. But don’t be mistaken, John will do a great job. People who know basketball know that he’s a great coach.”

Thompson III replaces Craig Esherick, who patched together a 103-74 record since 1999. Princeton has filled its coaching vacancy with Air Force head coach and former Tiger player and assistant Joe Scott.

On the East Hill, Paul Fortier was promoted from volunteer to full-time assistant coach. Fortier, who joined the Red in August 2003, replaces the departing Joe Burke on Donahue’s staff.

“I’m very pleased to have Paul back on a full-time basis,” Donahue said in an April 23rd press release. “He brings unique experiences and a tremendous ability to teach basketball and evaluate talent that will benefit everyone in our program.”

As a full assistant, Fortier will again be responsible for developing Cornell’s post players, a group which led the Ivy League in rebounding in 2003-04 under his tutelage. Improved post play was a large part of the Red’s improvement over the 2002-03 season, and Fortier is looking to reach even higher.

“I’m happy to be here working with Steve and the players, and we’re looking to make big things happen for the upcoming season,” he said. “Our goal is to build on what’s been accomplished so far.”

After starring for the University of Washington, Fortier spent his years roaming the paint for several top basketball leagues in Italy, France, Spain, and Greece. In his 17 professional seasons, he averaged over 15 points per game 13 times. Burke leaves Cornell after four years under coach Donahue to join the overhauled staff of the U.S. Naval Academy. He will be the top assistant to Midshipmen head coach Billy Lange.

Archived article by Per Ostman
Sun Senior Writer