Monday night marked the conclusion of a men’s college basketball season that witnessed arguably the greatest wire-to-wire performance by a GW team in school history. There was much to savor, and GW fans will for some time. But inevitably, the dialog among fans turns to the topic of how the school can maintain this level of success, on a regular basis.
Winning basketball is not as unpredictable as some would have you believe. There are strategies that, once implemented, can create an environment for success. Great programs are not born great, they are created. Prior to 1975, Georgetown had appeared in exactly one NCAA Tournament, one less than GW to that point. But they found a great coach, and then they put the pieces in place to succeed. They have rarely looked back since. With that in mind, here are my lucky 13 suggestions to this administration for how to keep it going.
1. Prioritize and support basketball. A successful basketball team is much more than a campus diversion. Sustained success can mean millions in free advertising, a higher quality of applicants and, ultimately, alumni giving. We witnessed some of that this year. It’s just a fact, so make the commitment, and the investments will pay off. Which leads to …
2. Keep Karl Hobbs. GW has one of the best coaches in the country. The administration can’t directly control the most important aspect of a program – how good the players are, and how well they play. Coach Hobbs can, and he’s a proven quantity. As a bonus, he’s also a class act. Karl Hobbs may leave someday for a variety of reasons, but don’t let any of those reasons be salary, or facilities. Would GW let the top professor in the country leave over money? The University doesn’t let itself be treated as a stepping-stone in any department, except for sports. Lose the inferiority complex; it’s unbecoming. Karl Hobbs is a keeper. Keep him. Simple as that, which leads to one more way you do that …
3. Upgrade the Smith Center. We don’t need more seats, and we don’t need a new facility. We simply need a modern facility. This keeps coaches, attracts recruits and forces reporters, fans and other opinion-makers to take you seriously. Launch the capital campaign, get the already-created refurbishment designs out into the public and find the donors for this project, just like you have for so many other buildings on campus.
4. Build a donor base. This is worth reiterating. Work to break the GW culture of not giving to sports. This will require a more proactive approach.
5. Upgrade the league, or keep your ears open for a new one. Focus on the perennial criticism of the Atlantic 10 administration. There’s a reason people are unhappy with it; find out why. Light a fire under the A-10 to address these complaints, but keep your mind open to new league opportunities that might present themselves.
6. Get Georgetown, Maryland and George Mason on the schedule, and keep them there. Now is the time. Seize it. The rising tide lifts all boats.
7. Keep fighting for local publicity. You’ve made some significant inroads, but keep working it.
8. Keep the BB&T alive. It’s done wonders for GW, in all its forms. Keep it going.
9. Take every opportunity to be on TV. Tell me again why a three-hour free advertisement that you get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for isn’t a worth a tough game? If that means playing on the road, fine. The fact is, fans would rather see GW on TV versus top competition, than at home versus the dregs of Division I basketball.
10. If you are at home, play the best you can get, and you can get better. I know it’s impossible to schedule tier-one BCS conference teams at the Smith Center, but make every effort to schedule second-tier BCS conference teams. It’s been done at GW before. Believe it or not, Clemson and Baylor are big steps up from Kennesaw State and Morgan State.
11. Get GW on the radio. GW is not a second-class program in D.C. Get GW on the radio, on a real station.
12. Focus on the merchandise issue. People have complained about availability for years. There must be a reason. Find it, and address it.
13. Promote the history of the program. Have you seen the lobby at Georgetown’s McDonough Arena? And that’s not even the arena they use. Last time I saw it, the lobby of the Smith Center looked like no one had thought two seconds about it in 20 years. GW has an athletic story to tell, and you have museum curators on staff. Unleash them.
I fully understand that many of the initiatives above cost money, but some of them also represent revenue generators, and the sum total of implementation is ultimately a gigantic net positive on the balance sheet. The true cost is in the time and attention GW men’s basketball needs to receive from the top of this administration. These issues require presidential attention. They require committees, and mandates, and possibly new staff. But those sacrifices are worth it.
If there is a recurring theme in the areas where GW currently falls short in men’s basketball, it’s the lack of attention and commitment from the administration. The program has certainly received more support than it did during the ’60s, ’70s and 80’s, and that is a credit to President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. But it has still overachieved to be where it is today. The administration should reward that behavior, and take advantage of what the program has already established without the support it could have had.
The bottom line is: what activity of the University generates even one-tenth this much interest from the alumni and community? It is in the University’s best interest to stop denying that fact, and instead, feed the beast. n
-The writer, The Hatchet sports editor in 1999-2000, graduated in the class of 2001. He is a special assistant to the mayor of Oklahoma City.