It’s not a secret that Georgetown has one of the most strict policies in all of college basketball when it comes to media access to the team.
They don’t invite media members into practice. Reporters do not get to go into the locker room postgame. They are as cleansed and bland as anyone in the country when it comes to the answers that their players give to questions. A lot of that stems from the reign of “Big John” Thompson, when Hoya Paranoia was in full force. The patriarch of the Georgetown program and the father of current head coach John Thompson III still has quite a bit of influence over on the Hilltop.
On Tuesday, Thompson hopped on ESPN 980 in D.C. and gave a fairly enlightening view into why he keeps such a tight lid on his program while providing us with one of the best anecdotes that you will hear a head coach give this summer. He was asked about the NFL training camp reality show ‘Hard Knocks’ and whether or not he would want to deal with something like that as a coach (transcription via DC Sports Bog):
“Personally as a coach — and the world is changing — but I don’t want to be miked,” he said. “I don’t want people in the locker room, I don’t want people in training camp, I don’t want people in meetings, because I want to be able — sometimes — to talk in those tongues I learned growing up that you can’t do when the cameras are there.
“Now, the world is changing. I just rattled off I don’t want to do all that, but I had people come in our halftime room this year. I had people come in for a pregame speech. The world is changing, and as coaches you have to adapt. But you just asked me do I want that? Absolutely not. Absolutely not.”
He wasn’t done.
“I maybe shouldn’t say this, but I’m gonna say it,” Thompson said. “I’m miked for pre-game talk. So I tell the team, ‘Look fellas, the cameras are coming in.’ I said: ‘I’m gonna make up something to say, all right? We’re gonna sit here, let them stay with us for about five minutes, then we’re gonna kick ‘em out, then we’re gonna have our real talk. Don’t. Start. Laughing.’”
“So the people from Fox come in, and I’m going through my spiel. And we write a speech for this. I’m sitting there going through my spiel, and the team was just looking at me, snickering. At one point, I had to turn my back to the camera, because I was getting ready to break out laughing.”
“I’ll even break it down even further, even with letting people come into practice,” Thompson said. “I know I talk differently, I coach differently if I have a mic on. I know I talk differently, I coach differently if there are people sitting up in the stands in practice.”
“And so it’s not like everything is always ‘Oh, there are these secret walls up around Georgetown.’ There is some of that, don’t get me wrong. But to create the best learning environment for our kids, I think sometimes we don’t need to be miked. We don’t need to be putting on a show 24-7, 365 for the audience. We need to be helping this group that’s in front of us grow up, get better, and become young men.”
I’m sure he’s not the only coach that does that, but he also has a point. As a media member, I want access — I need access — to be able to do my job. But my job is to write and to talk about somebody else’s real life. Publicity is a good thing, and getting used to dealing with media every day is important for the players who have professional aspirations, but at the end of the day, the Georgetown players and coaches have a job to do. Sometimes, limiting media access is the best way to do it.
Either way, that’s one fantastic anecdote.