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Date Posted: 13:59:53 03/17/04 Wed
Author: kesiwick
Subject: GU ``committed to ... national competitiveness''

``We are deeply committed to the future success of men's basketball as measured by maintaining national competitiveness with the leading programs in the Big East and the country,'' the statement said.

March 17, 2004
Georgetown Fires Head Coach Esherick

Filed at 11:24 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Georgetown basketball coach Craig Esherick was fired by university President John J. DeGioia Tuesday night. The dismissal comes less than two weeks after DeGioia gave Esherick a public vote of confidence, and days after Esherick said he would return despite a 13-15 season, the Hoyas' worst in 31 years.

``We didn't win. That's not a sin. That's not a crime. Clearly, it's not acceptable to Jack,'' Esherick told The Associated Press on Wednesday. ``But Jack is the one that's in charge of the university, and he's the one that has to make those decisions. And I have to live with it.''

In a statement, DeGioia said he is ``dedicated to sustaining that tradition of excellence which means a great deal to our university community and the many fans of Georgetown basketball.''

``We are deeply committed to the future success of men's basketball as measured by maintaining national competitiveness with the leading programs in the Big East and the country,'' the statement said.

Such a standard has not been the norm since Esherick succeeded Hall of Fame coach John Thompson in 1999. The Hoyas have made just once NCAA tournament appearance since -- in 2001 -- and they've barely qualified for their own conference tournament each of the last two seasons.

The Hoyas lost their last nine games, their longest losing streak since 1971-72, the season before the Thompson era began. Esherick finished with a 103-74 record and lost to Boston College in the opening round of the Big East tournament last week, the first time in the tournament's 25-year history Georgetown did not reach the quarterfinals.

Esherick has been heavily criticized by students and alumni in recent seasons, but the words ``Fire Esherick'' were heard in chants and seen on campus posters this year like never before. A protest rally had been scheduled for Wednesday in front of DeGioia's office.

Even so, DeGioia backed Esherick two weeks ago, saying that he had confidence that Esherick ``is the right person to strengthen and lead our program.''

``I asked him what about the statement he made two weeks ago giving me his full support ... and he said, 'Well, it was during the season,''' Esherick said.

DeGioia was not available for comment Wednesday morning. A university spokeswoman said he was out of town.

Buoyed by DeGioia's vote of confidence, Esherick had vowed repeatedly that he would return, often referring to the strong recruiting class he had for next season.

``I ain't going anywhere. I may be here for another 30 years,'' Esherick said before the final regular-season game. He was also emphatic that it was unfair to judge a college coach solely on wins and losses because that was only one facet of dealing with student-athletes.

And now? ``Really, that's what I have been judged on,'' Esherick said.

``I ran the program the way it should have been run and the way I wanted to run it,'' Esherick said. ``And I didn't win enough games.''

Fans have also been concerned over the direction of the basketball program since athletic director Joe Lang's comments a year ago that an annual NCAA tournament berth was an ``unreasonable expectation'' for Georgetown. Lang later tried to clarify his remarks, but more questions were raised when Esherick was given a contract extension through 2009 at the end of last season.

There has also been concern over the program's finances. The university, in a report to the Department of Education, tallied a loss of more than $800,000 for the men's basketball program during the 2002-03 academic year.

Georgetown has sold out only one game since moving to the downtown MCI Center in 1997 -- and that was a game this season against then-No. 1 Duke, whose fans filled the upper half of the arena. Progress toward a new campus arena has been slow.

This year's team started 10-0, but Georgetown had one of the easiest early nonconference schedules among major conference teams.

The state of the program is a far cry from the days of Thompson, who raised Georgetown from basketball obscurity to win 596 games over 27 seasons. He led the Hoyas to NCAA tournament berths in 18 of 19 years starting in 1980, climaxed by the school's only NCAA title in 1984.

Esherick played for Georgetown under Thompson and was one of Thompson's assistants from 1982 until Thompson resigned for personal reasons in the middle of the 1998-99 season.

Asked whether it was possible to meet expectations when following a legendary coach, Esherick said: ``I don't know. Different people were expecting different things.''

``There was certainly a segment of the people who followed the program who thought I did a very good job,'' Esherick said. ``And there was a segment that clearly were not happy with what I did. ... I'm proud of what I did at Georgetown over the course of a very, very long time.''

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