Return to Index
The following features were written in 1998 and predate this web site.
A Glimpse Into The Future
It's now just a footnote in Georgetown's illustrious basketball history, a 83-82 loss to Louisiana State in the 1970 National Invitation Tournament, a game which
brought Georgetown its first post-season bid in a generation. While a first round loss in the NIT does not seem momentous today, the efforts of the 1969-1970 Hoyas offered a glimpse of Georgetown's basketball future.
Thirty years ago, no one would have imagined Georgetown a future national power. Between 1947 and 1972, Georgetown's overall record was under .500, with fewer wins (296) than any of the 32 Catholic universities playing major college basketball during this period. In an era which saw local talent such as Elgin Baylor, John Thompson,
Fred Hetzel, Dave Bing, Bob Lewis, and Austin Carr become college All-Americans, Georgetown passed on each of them, staying among its traditional recruiting base among Catholic and suburban high schools in the New Jersey area.
Between 1954 and 1969, the Hoyas regularly fell short of the NIT and never challenged for the NCAA's. The 1965 team lost 7 of its final 10 games to drop from NIT consideration; in 1967, 8 of 11; in 1969, 7 of 9. Little wonder, then, that an
ad in the 1970 game program summed up the feelings of fans when it stated: "NIT: This IS The Year."
The 1969-1970 squad, a mixture of experience and youth, put it all together. The Hoyas were led by 6-8 senior Charlie Adrion, whose career averages of 16.3 points and 9.9 rebounds per game were among the best of the decade. While Adrion was ably supported from veterans Mike Laska and Don Weber, among others, pre-season hopes centered around sophomores Mike Laughna, Art White and Andy Gill. The three combined for over 65 points a game for the 1969 freshmen team, and while Gill played
sparingly in his only varsity season, Laughna and White did not disappoint.
Coach Jack Magee was impressed by White from the start. In 1970, he told the Washington Post that White was "the best prospect I've ever coached and with the potential to be...the best in Georgetown history before he graduates." White scored in double figures in 13 of his first 14 games, and in that stretch
the Hoyas were an astonishing 12-2.
Throughout the year, Georgetown maintained a huge home court advantage. A 12-1 record was the best in McDonough Gym's 20 year history, but late season road losses raised old fears that GU would fall short again. This dread was most evident at Manhattan, where the Hoyas missed 22 consecutive first half shots in a 66-49 loss. But with hopes fading at season's end, prayers of long-suffering Hoya fans were suddenly answered. As unheralded St. Peter's upset Manhattan at the end of the season, Mike Laughna's 21 points led the Hoyas past Penn State, 73-67 for their 18th win of the season. This strange turn of events left the NIT committee to select Georgetown for its 16 team field.
Their NIT opponent was LSU, featuring perhaps the greatest player in the history of college basketball, Pete Maravich. A three time All-American and 1970 Player of the Year, "Pistol Pete" scored 3,667 points in 83 games, a 45.2 point average that smashed Oscar Robertson's existing record by nearly 700 points and which has never been approached to this day. Maravich scored over 50 points in a game 28 different times, and once hit 30 of 31 free throws in a single game. As a point of comparison,
Maravich scored more points in 1970 alone (1,381) than Georgetown Hall of Famers Charlie Adrion or Mike Laughna would score in their entire college careers.
Before his arrival, the Tigers were 1-17 in the SEC and 3-23 overall; in 1970, Maravich led LSU to its first NIT bid ever. With his razzle-dazzle, high scoring reputation, this NIT game at Madison Square Garden became an event. Despite having no national coverage of college basketball, CBS telecast the game, using its NFL announcers Jack Whitaker and Pat Summerall. On the airwaves, WGTB's coverage
was said to be carried on worldwide Armed Forces Radio. Newspapers gave the game more coverage than the NCAA regionals. It seemed everyone had come to see Pistol Pete break the Garden scoring record, but a banner in the Garden prophetically warned: "Never Underestimate the Power of a Hoya."
Magee chose senior guard Mike Laska to contain the unstoppable Maravich. To everyone's disbelief, Laska played the defensive game of a lifetime. In the first ten minutes of the game, the NCAA's all-time leading scorer had but one field goal. For the game, Maravich shot 6 for 16 from the field and 20 points overall, a performance he called "pitiful". To Hoya fans, it was something else entirely.
With Maravich under wraps, LSU's front line of 6-8 Danny Hester, 6-8 Al Sanders, and 6-9 Bill Newton took advantage of its height. With the ball going inside, the Tiger trio combined for 56 points and 43 rebounds, and three Hoyas (Adrion, Laughna, and senior Paul Favorite) fouled out in the process.
Still, the Blue and Gray would not quit. Trailing 81-74 with 3:08 to play, the Hoya defense went to work, and LSU would not score another field goal the rest of the game. A pair of Georgetown goals narrowed the count to 81-78 with under a minute to play, and as Maravich looked to dribble out the clock, he was fouled. With the game on the line, Maravich missed the front end of the one-and-one, and the Hoyas were still alive.
Coming down the court, Art White sank two of his team-high 28 points to narrow
the score to 81-80 with 0:17 left. Maravich was quickly fouled again to stop the clock. He later told the New York Daily News that
"I remembered the way my dad (LSU coach Press Maravich) got on me for missing the other one, so I figured I'd better make it." Despite the cries of every Hoya fan in the building, Maravich sank both free throws, and a final Hoya score closed out the 83-82 LSU win.
Although Jack Magee held that the future looked bright for the Hoyas, it was not to be. The following season, the team returned to form, losing 8 of its final 10 and finishing under .500. Art White, once thought to become the greatest player in school history, did not return for the 1971-1972 season, and the 3-23 record
that followed proved Magee's undoing and the arrival of a local high school coach named John Thompson.
The Game That Wasn't A Game
One of the more important events of this season is nowhere to be found in the record books.
In December, 1969, Georgetown traveled to meet the 1970 Final Four-bound Jacksonville Dolphins, led by 7-2 All-American Artis Gilmore. The Dolphins led 41-26 in the first half when hostile Jacksonville fans interrupted play. At this, Magee pulled his team off the court, and Jacksonville officials reported the game a forfeit.
Georgetown appealed to the NCAA, and in February the NCAA then declared the game a "no contest", meaning the game would not count in the standings. With only six--not seven--losses, Georgetown was NIT-bound.
The 1970 NIT planted seeds for Georgetown's future growth. As many as 3,000 tickets were sold to Hoya fans that day, a base of support that would grow in coming years. Earlier that year, the student newspaper The HOYA noted that the recruiting budget for the program was only $2,000 and the entire budget (exclusive of scholarships) was less
than $43,000. Compared to even smaller liberal-arts schools like Davidson (whose recruiting budget was $24,000), it was clear that Georgetown was not doing enough for its team.
Following years of this benign institutional neglect, the University began to reconsider the importance of a sound athletic program. A long overdue support club for athletics was developed that spring and became known as Hoyas Unlimited.
Mindful of the favorable publicity that the NIT generated, the administration raised its expectations for the team. When the 1972 Hoyas sank to a 3-23 record, a change was in order. When selecting a new coach in 1972, a return to the excitement of that day in March, 1970 was on the minds of the selection committee.
Maybe, just maybe, they hoped the new coach of the Hoyas
would take them back to the NIT, now and then.