John Thompson, Legendary Georgetown Basketball Coach, Dies at 78

The former head men’s basketball coach for the Hoya’s and the first Black coach to win an NCAA title died Monday, the Associated Press reports.

What We Know:

  • Thompson dominated Georgetown basketball for almost three decades, taking the Hoya’s to three NCAA National Championship games, winning one with star center Patrick Ewing in 1984. “Our father was an inspiration to many and devoted his life to developing young people not simply on but, most importantly, off the basketball court. He is revered as a historic shepherd of the sport, dedicated to the welfare of his community above all else,” a family statement read.
  • John Thompson took over the Georgetown program in 1972, a team that had a 3-23 record the previous year. In his tenure, he led Georgetown to 14 straight NCAA tournaments (1979-92), 24 consecutive postseason appearances (20 NCAA, 4 NIT), three Final Fours (1982, 1984, 1985) and won six Big East tournament championships.
  • Syracuse head coach and former rival Jim Boeheim said, “He was one of a kind. There aren’t that many. He brought a presence to the game that nobody does, has. He was a great coach, but he was also a role model for a lot of coaches– white coaches and Black coaches.”
  • Along with Patrick Ewing, Thompson coached NCAA greats such as Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo, sending 26 players to the NBA. One of his star players, Allen Iverson, shared his thoughts on his former coach’s passing on Instagram Monday.

  • Though his record on the court speaks for itself, Thompson himself recognized that he had a huge impact off the court. “I’ll probably be remembered for all the things that kept me out of the Hall of Fame, ironically, more than for the things that got me into it,” he said at his Hall of Fame election ceremony. Included in this is a famous pre-game walk-out to protest an NCAA rule that he felt targeted minorities. He also shamed infamous DC drug kingpin Rayful Edmond III, demanding that he stop associating himself with Georgetown players in a meeting in his office.
  • After stepping down as head coach during the 1998-1999 season, Thompson stayed active as a TV and radio game reporter and watched his son, John Thompson III, take the helm as the Hoya’s head coach in 2004.

“For us, his greatest legacy remains as a father, grandfather, uncle, and friend. More than a coach, he was our foundation. More than a legend, he was the voice in our ear everyday,” the family added in their statement.