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Jon Thompson To Amherst: WTF?

30 - Published July 13, 2010 by in College, NCAA

Editor’s note: Swank Lax is back! A well known force on the Laxpower forum poll,  he always brings a sense of total honesty, candor and humor to his posts.
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Let’s start this off with a moment of silence for the death of Jon Thompson’s reputation.

Okay.

To be perfectly clear, the decision by Jon Thompson to leave Colby for Amherst was so indefensibly stupid that I am honestly at a loss for words to describe how mystified I am by JT’s willingness to trash his own credibility in such a public manner. Hell, JT probably could have beaten and robbed a convent of nuns and his reputation would have suffered less.

By all accounts, JT spent his time at Colby talking up the prospect of building a national powerhouse. He sold recruits on a program of excellence, on the idea that in a few years, the middling Mules would be dethroning perennial powerhouses in the NESCAC. He preached accountability and commitment as a means to an ends, fighting to change a lacrosse culture a Colby that he did not like. In a recent magazine article, Thompson said “Three years ago I would have been embarrassed to be the coach of this team for their behavior off the field.”

Today, Colby players, parents and alumni should be embarrassed that they ever bought into the crap that Thompson fed them. For a man who talked an awful lot about commitment and accountability, he displays a remarkable lack of it in being introduced as the new Amherst coach. He offers an overly-sentimental thank you to the Colby administration and community that reeks of insincerity.

“I first want to give a sincere and warm thank you to Suzanne Coffey for presenting me and my family with this opportunity. I also want to be sure to thank [Colby College athletics director] Marcella Zalot and the rest of the Colby lacrosse community for the incredible experience during our time in Waterville. As difficult as it will be to leave some of the relationships that [my wife, Susanna,] and I established in Maine, they will forever be in our hearts and minds.”

Really Jon? You established relationships in two years that you are going to value for the rest of your life? Those words ring hollow against your actions, which say that you couldn’t care less about anyone at Colby aside from the fact that they helped facilitate your latest career move. Don’t insult our intelligence by telling the world that you care deeply about the players you are leaving behind. You owe the athletes, who bought into your system and fought for every win that you listed on your résumé when you applied for the Amherst job, so much better than that. I hope Craig Bunker, Whit McCarthy and Ian Deveau are all getting a healthy chunk of your fat new salary. They deserve it far more than you.

Rest assured, Benedict Thompson will not escape this with repercussions. In DIII lacrosse recruiting, a coach’s word is everything. There is no money on the table to assuage concerns that a coach can’t be trusted, no financial incentive to overcome lingering doubts or an unreliable track record from a coach. After JT’s desertion of Colby, how can any potential recruit sit down in his office at Amherst, listen to Thompson’s supposedly impressive recruiting spiel and come away believing a single word he said? They can’t and they won’t. That’s not to say that Thompson won’t get any players. He will. Amherst is too strong of a draw on its own merits that even a terrible recruiter will land a few good players (see Campbell, Dave and Middlebury). However, it is going to be a good long while until his recruiting pitch is anything more than him blowing hot air. To those considering playing for Thompson at Amherst either now or in the future, I offer you the following cautionary words from the parent of a Colby recruit (via Laxpower).

“JT is dead to my son and me as well. He misled us, the prior recruits and all of the other players on the team. He spoke about the importance of character and seeing a job through to completion. He is a farce, we are deeply hurt.”

The poster, and more importantly his son, have every right to be hurt given JT’s message about commitment, responsibility, accountability and seeing things through to the end. Jon Thompson embodies none of these qualities. He abandoned his players after only two years and accomplished nothing during his time at Colby. A sub-.500 record in NESCAC games. No home playoff games or playoff wins. The Mules were never ranked in the top 20 nationally. No significant out of conference wins. In this light, it is clear that JT’s message is really “Do as I say, not as I do.” Recruits, stay far, far away.

I almost feel bad for the administration and athletes at Amherst. Amherst athletic director Suzanne Coffey added what may be perhaps the most asinine statement of this whole situation when she said that “Jon’s winning attitude and intensity came across forcefully in the interview process. I expect that he will make strong and lasting connections with our student-athletes and our terrifically supportive alumni.” Are you kidding me? You expect a guy who stayed a whole two years a Colby to make strong and lasting connections at your school now? That statement is so inexcusably moronic that I wonder if she actually thinks that JT is going to be a lifer at Amherst. Either way, it shows a dangerous failure to understand the reality that Thompson is jumping for an Ivy League coaching job as soon as he can get one. Please, get a clue.

Amherst lacrosse captain Gabe Mann offered up another entertaining statement when he said “We could tell that Coach Thompson has the commitment and the passion to help push Amherst in the right direction towards competing for both the NESCAC and national championships immediately.” Gabe, I sincerely hope they asked you for that quote after your third Zima of the night because you must not have realized that Colby won just one more NESCAC game than Amherst did in the past two years. Or maybe you just forgot that you handled Colby 12-5 this year, while Thompson was undoubtedly pacing and pouting on the other bench. In any case, the only thing Thompson is committed to is the advancement of his own career. Once he can bolt for a better job, he will. I suspect that day will come sooner rather than later.

In the end, the real losers in these situations are the players. I sympathize with the Colby players, parents and alumni who were deceived by Thompson. He gave all of you a raw deal. Unfortunately, you won’t be the last ones.

Article sources:

- Amherst Names Jon Thompson New Head Lacrosse Coach | LaxPower

- Held to Account | Colby.edu

Follow Swank Lax at Twitter.com/swanklax

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