ATLANTA - Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson said he will drop his application for a gaming license in Nevada, after a firestorm of criticism and a discussion of the issue with the president of the university.
A Las Vegas newspaper reported last week that Thompson had applied for a gaming license and hoped to acquire a 10 percent interest in the slot machine concession at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. The concession is run by Michael J. Gaughan, a friend of Thompson's whose son, Brendan, is a walk-on player for the Hoyas.
Cedric Dempsey, the president of the NCAA, questioned the propriety of a coach being involved with gambling interests, but Thompson said he was swayed more by a conversation he had yesterday morning with the president of Georgetown. The Rev. Leo J. O'Donovan, S.J. had earlier said Thompson's possible investment was inappropriate.
"He [Rev. O'Donovan] is the person who has been extremely supportive of me and a person I love dearly," Thompson said. "He's permitted me to be me. He understood what I was doing, but I've decided to drop it totally, because he asked me to. It was never my intention in any way to create any grief for him.
"Nine months ago is when I made an application for this thing. I never made this a secret. I had the [head] over all the Jesuits as a reference. I had a state senator, a member of the NCAA, as references. I was never secretive about this."
O'Donovan said he is pleased by Thompson's decision to drop the application.
"He has always placed the interests of the university and the education of his players first, and I never doubted that he would continue to do so," O'Donovan said.
Thompson said he wasn't angry with the NCAA, which always has feared game-fixing and has been forced to look at the issue of gambling on college campuses by exposes in national publications. Just last year, the Maryland football team had two starters suspended because they bet on college athletics.
"The only problem I have is when people get sanctimonious," Thompson said during Georgetown's regularly scheduled media appearance. "Any man who has not played a slot machine, get up and leave this room. Anyone who doesn't work for a newspaper that runs a betting spread, leave this room."
Michael Gaughan said Thompson plays only slot machines and never goes near the casino's sports book.
"John just loves to play slots," he said. "I've got 1,000 little old ladies out there who know him by his first name. They talk slot talk, which one's ready to hit, that kind of thing. He's an entirely different person here."
The Hoyas players, who meet Texas Tech in the East Regional semifinals tonight, did not seem fazed by all the controversy.
"We're not too familiar with it," star guard Allen Iverson said. "Plus, that's Coach Thompson's personal business. He doesn't involve us in anything like that."
Pub Date: 3/21/96