SHANGHAI – Georgetown coach John Thompson III said he has made peace with the coach of a Chinese basketball team over a bench-clearing brawl and denies the melee carried any political connotations.
Thompson said Saturday that he met with the Bayi Rockets' coach on Friday and they shook hands and chatted about basketball and other matters.
Thompson doesn't think the brawl in Beijing on Thursday had any political overtones. The Rockets are affiliated with China's military, and the fight seemed to embody often contentious U.S.-China relations on the second day of a highly publicized visit by Vice President Joe Biden.
"Beijing is behind us, man," Thompson said Saturday, a day after flying to Shanghai as part of a 10-day goodwill trip. "We are excited to be here in Shanghai. And our team was invited to come here to the city of Shanghai to be part of this. Beijing is over."
Asked what he told his players, Thompson said: "I told them, 'Let's go to Shanghai and have fun.'"
While China likes to use sports to promote diplomacy, at times that has been affected by violent flare-ups by players and fans. Tensions ran high Thursday when referees began calling the Hoyas for numerous fouls.
After Bayi players knocked guard Jason Clark to the ground, the melee ensued with players throwing punches and chairs. The Hoyas left the court as fans threw water bottles at them, the score tied at 64.
Coaches and players representatives from the two teams met at Beijing's airport Friday to reconcile.
"Yeah, we just got together and shook hands and their coach and me talked about things other than basketball, about families, and we both are ready to move on," Thompson said.
While the Hoyas were originally scheduled to play the Rockets again on Sunday in Shanghai, that match was canceled prior to Thursday's fight. Instead, Georgetown will face the Liaoning Dinosaurs.
"We expect good competition against a very difficult team," Thompson said.