The college basketball world awoke with a jolt of sadness Monday morning, as it was announced that legendary Georgetown Hoyas basketball coach John Thompson Jr. passed away overnight at the age of 78.
Breaking News: Legendary Georgetown Coach John Thompson has passed away. The Hall of Famer became the first African-American head coach to win the NCAA National Championship, leading the Hoyas to the 1984 title. Coach Thompson will be greatly missed. pic.twitter.com/wrNyzN2vFU— The Team 980 & 95.9FM (@team980) August 31, 2020
The Thompson family released a statement a short time ago.
Here is the statement from Coach John Thompson’s family: pic.twitter.com/K1fIjsJL4x— The Team 980 & 95.9FM (@team980) August 31, 2020
In his 27 seasons at Georgetown, Thompson compiled a 596-239 record which included one national championship victory in three appearances. Upon joining the Big East as an inaugural member in 1979, Thompson and the Hoyas really began to shine and rise to national prominence, putting both the program and the conference on the map.
Even after Thompson’s 1999 resignation, he remained a fixture at Georgetown games, watching his son John Thompson III coach the team for more than a decade, followed by perhaps Thompson Jr’s most notable former player, Patrick Ewing. In 2018, Georgetown named its brand new practice facility the John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletic Center.
Prior to his time at the helm at Georgetown, the 6’10” Thompson was a standout center for the Providence Friars. Thompson was drafted in the third round of the 1964 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics, and won two championships in two seasons before retiring to focus on coaching. Thompson began his coaching career at St. Anthony’s High School in Washington DC prior to taking the reins at Georgetown.
While Thompson’s on-court successes at Georgetown stand out, he arguably made just as great of an impact off the court, using his platform to speak out on race issues, NCAA eligibility, and multiple other societal issues through the past few decades.
Tributes have already been pouring into social media, and likely will all day. Georgetown great and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Allen Iverson shared the following.
Thanks For Saving My Life Coach. I’m going to miss you, but I’m sure that you are looking down on us with a big smile. I would give anything just for one more phone call from you only to hear you say, “Hey MF”, then we would talk about everything except basketball....... pic.twitter.com/03yj4gZv5q— Allen Iverson (@alleniverson) August 31, 2020
Thompson’s impact on his program, his players, the sport, and his community, will forever be remembered. College athletics has truly lost one of its titans.