WASHINGTON (AP) After decades of failed attempts to drum up enough interest or support for an on-campus basketball practice facility, Georgetown Hall of Fame coach John Thompson was still around to see what he says he has been waiting for since at least 1978.
A ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony was held Thursday outside the John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletic Center. It was attended by many former players including Hall of Famers Alonzo Mourning and Allen Iverson. The current team coached by Thompson's son - John Thompson III - as well as school President Jack J. DeGioia and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue - who played for Georgetown in the `60s - were also in attendance.
Thompson, who coached the Hoyas from 1972-99, amassing 596 victories with three Final Fours appearances that included the 1984 national championship, addressed the crowd.
''When they started talking about putting up a building I started laughing,'' he recalled. ''I said I won't be alive when they put a building up.''
Finished in just over two years, the 144,000 square-foot, five-level building, which cost $61 million, provides Georgetown men's and women's basketball teams with a state of the art facility to compete in the ever-changing landscape of college athletics. Both teams will have practice courts, locker rooms, meeting rooms, lounge areas and coaches' offices as they move out of adjacent McDonough Gymnasium, which was built in 1951.
While basketball occupies roughly 50 percent of the center the other half includes weight rooms, training rooms and an academic center for all student-athletes.
It's still difficult for Thompson to believe the building is indeed there.
''It's very hard to express what you really feel,'' he said. ''I've sat out there and just looked at it and said, `Can you believe this?'''