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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

100 Years of Georgetown Basketball

Ritz-Carlton Hotel
Washington, DC
February 10, 2007

It is an honor to welcome you here tonight and to celebrate with you 100 years of Georgetown basketball.

Tonight, we commemorate the remarkable achievements of all who have participated in Georgetown ’s program over the course of the last century. 

We reflect on the victories won on the court, and on the ways in which the program has enriched our community and the individual lives of so many who have been part of it. 

We also recognize the many contributions members of the Hoya Basketball family have, in turn, made to the game, to their communities, and to so many other lives. 

We will have an opportunity tonight to remember storied moments and legendary leaders from the three major eras of Georgetown Basketball:

We will recall the Vintage era (1907 to 1942), when Georgetown made its mark on the future of college basketball and established the foundation for bold national leadership. 

In that period, Coach Maurice Joyce established himself as an innovator who introduced refinements that are now permanently imbedded in the character of the game.  Georgetown also welcomed its first, but certainly not last, Hall of Fame Coach in Elmer Ripley.

We will explore the Classic Era (1943 to 1972), in which Georgetown emerged on the national stage with a trip to the National Championship game in 1943 and built a strong record of post-season appearances and All-American players. 

Men who led Georgetown on the court in this period later became prominent leaders in a variety of fields of endeavor.  Many of them are with us tonight, and we will honor some of their significant achievements over the course of the evening.

Finally, we will celebrate the program that we know today, the Modern Era of Georgetown basketball that began in 1972 with the arrival on campus of future Hall of Fame Coach John Thompson, Jr. 

In his remarkable Georgetown career of 27 seasons, Coach Thompson compiled a record of 596 wins to 239 losses.  We all still remember vividly many of those 596 wins—most especially the 7 BIG EAST regular season championships, the 6 BIG EAST Tournament Championships, and the 1984 NCAA Championship—one of 20 NCAA tournament appearances and three NCAA championship match-ups. 

The players of the Modern Era are also part of the permanent fabric of Georgetown history—they are themselves legends known simply by their first names: Patrick, Sleepy, Reggie, Alonzo, Dikembe, and Allen.

And we will recognize what promises to be a second storied chapter in the program’s Modern Era, begun with the arrival of Coach John Thompson III—who has already led his Hoyas to an NCAA appearance and a current place among the top 25 teams in the nation. 

Georgetown basketball has inspired athletes, coaches, our community, and fans across the nation and around the world.  It has enabled the University to attract gifted young athletes, and it has offered them an incredible experience in which they are challenged and supported in making the most of their remarkable talents. 

It has also, as we were reminded by Father Healy’s reflections on the game, served as a crucial component of the formation of truly exceptional leaders for the sport, the nation, and even the global community. 

The Georgetown basketball arena has repeatedly proved to be an arena for excellence—for boundary-breaking achievement and the pursuit of triumph, and for young people to become the best athletes and individuals they can be. 

There is so much of which we can be deeply proud, and so much to which we can look forward.  I am personally deeply grateful to all of you for your many contributions, and thrilled to have you with us tonight to celebrate.  Please enjoy the evening. . .

I mentioned earlier one of the most enduring successes of Georgetown basketball: its contributions to the formation of outstanding leaders.  The Classic Era indeed represents the “glory years” of Georgetown basketball in this regard. 

Two individuals in particular stand out as exemplary of bringing forth their promise “as man and as citizen.” 

The first is General James Jones, a 1966 graduate of the School of Foreign Service , who retired from the U.S. Marine Corps at the beginning of this month after an extraordinary 40 year career that culminated in service as Supreme Allied Commander Europe, overseeing NATO military forces in Europe . 

The second individual is with us tonight, and it is my great pleasure to recognize his distinguished career of leadership and service.  Paul Tagliabue, a 1962 graduate of the College, retired last year as Commissioner of the National Football League.  Paul, will you join me on the stage?

One of the most heavily recruited prospects in the east, Paul began his association with Georgetown in 1958.  He chose Georgetown , he has said, because he knew he would find both academic and athletic excellence. 

A team captain, class president, and Rhodes Scholarship finalist, Paul graduated as the second all-time leading rebounder in Hoya history.  After studying law at New York University , a judicial clerkship, and service at the Department of Defense, he joined the law firm of Covington & Burling and began representing the NFL.  When the League sought a new Commissioner in 1989, Paul was their first-round draft pick. 

Over the next 17 years, under his leadership, the League expanded from 28 to 32 teams.  Paul implemented the strongest drug-testing program in professional sports, worked to guarantee the safety of the game on the field, and adopted a range of services to assist NFL players and their families. 

He focused particular attention on ensuring that young players would be prepared to manage the extraordinary challenges and opportunities they would suddenly encounter as professional athletes, and that established athletes would be positioned to succeed in post-playing careers. 

In January, he received the 2007 Theodore Roosevelt Award—the NCAA’s highest honor—in recognition of his outstanding career. 

He has also been a generous leader here at Georgetown , serving now on the University’s Board of Directors.  It is my great pleasure to recognize his contributions to Georgetown basketball, intercollegiate athletics, and professional athletics with the Letterman of Distinction Award.

The legendary players from whom we have just heard have provided truly outstanding leadership here at Georgetown , in the NBA, and in their work off the court.  We have an opportunity tonight to recognize one of our Georgetown legends in a special way. 

As many of you know, we have a Georgetown Athletic Hall of Fame.  There is no player more deserving of induction than the one we will recognize now, and no better occasion on which to induct him than here tonight.  Patrick Ewing, would you please join me again on the stage?

Before Patrick was a Knick, he was a Hoya.  When he arrived on campus in 1981, he joined a program on the threshold of national acclaim.  As a freshman, he did more than open the door to the Final Four; he kicked it down and left it wide open for the Hoyas to pass through again and again over the course of his college career.

Leader of one of the most fearsome defensive squads in college basketball history, Patrick helped to lead his teams to victory in 84 percent of their games over a four-year period.

The teams earned three Big East tournament titles, and in Patrick’s senior year, the Hoyas had their best-ever season with 35 wins and only 3 losses.  And I don’t think I have to remind you again about the three national championship games that included the 1984 NCAA title.

Patrick is, without contest, the most decorated basketball ever to wear the blue and grey.  He is Georgetown ’s only national Player of the Year and a four-time All-America selection.  His list of Big East honors is extensive, and includes twice being named Big East player of the year.  Three times named Georgetown ’s Most Valuable Player, he was the first Hoya to total 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career. 

He was similarly a standout in the NBA, being named Rookie of the Year in 1985, 11 times an NBA All-Star, and one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.  He is also a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist.

It is a great pleasure—at last—to induct this outstanding member of our community into the Georgetown Athletic Hall of Fame.

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