John Thompson Jr. will go down in history as one of the most inspirational figures in basketball and will be fondly remembered as a trailblazer. The legendary Georgetown Hoyas coach has died and the entire sports world is gathered in mourning.
As reported by local Washington outlet WJLA, the cause of Thompson’s passing has not been shared but it was known that he retired from his position from the Nike Board of Directors this past May.
The outlet adds that Thompson has an autobiography set to be released at the top of next year.
A giant of a man literally and figuratively, Thompson played college basketball for the Providence Friars after attending high school at Washington’s Archbishop Caroll, a catholic institution known for its strong sports programs.
After college, Thompson was selected in the 1964 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics in the third round. As a backup to Celtics legend Bill Russell, Thompson won two NBA championships before retiring to coach high school basketball at St. Anthony High School in Washington from 1966 to 1972.
Thompson then joined the Hoyas team, a towering figure that loomed over other coaches and even some of his players. A white towel draped over his shoulder while coaching became his trademark look, and his booming voice could be heard during game broadcasts calling out plays.
In the 1980s, Washingon was ravaged by the crack epidemic and drug wars of the time, and famously confronted the city’s most infamous crime lord in Rayful Edmonds III after it came out that crack cocaine kingpin was friendly with Hoyas players John Turner and Alonzo Mourning. Thompson, who reportedly stood up to Edmonds and was not afraid of any retaliation, forced Edmonds cut all ties with the players.
IN 1984, Thompson became the first Black coach to win an NCAA men’s basketball title when he led the Hoyas against the Houston Cougars, a team that featured future NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon. Along with Patrick Ewing, a future NBA star himself, the Hoyas defeated the Cougars 84-75.
After coaching, Thompson went into broadcasting and had his own talk program, The John Thompson Show, which aired on Washington station ESPN 980. He remained connected to the Georgetown program in some form even after stepping away from radio in 2012.
On Twitter, many fans of the Hoyas team and of Thompson have posted loving tributes to the coach. We’ve got those gathered for viewing down below.
John Thompson Jr. was 78.
John Thompson, Legendary Basketball Coach For Georgetown Hoyas, Has Died was originally published on hiphopwired.com
BREAKING: @ABC7News has learned from family and friends that legendary Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson has passed away at the age of 78— Lindsey Mastis (@LindseyMastis) August 31, 2020
Big John Thompson is the single most important black man in the history of D.C. sports.— yerboy yuletide yeehaw (@clintonyates) August 31, 2020
John Thompson is a legend in every sense of that word. He was the first African American head coach to lead a team to a national championship. What he did off the court, fighting social injustice and racism, set a standard. We have lost a titan. May he Rest In Peace. 🐐 pic.twitter.com/kOYPMeSS2F— John Fanta (@John_Fanta) August 31, 2020
If you don't know much about how badass John Thompson was, his Hoyas beat No. 2 Syracuse in the final game at Manley Field House in 1980.— Matt Maisel (@Matt_Maisel) August 31, 2020
JT, with massive 🏀🏀 gets on the PA mic and says "Manley Field House is officially closed. May it rest in peace.”https://t.co/1giYlxByMa
How influential was Georgetown Hoyas coach John Thompson? When Thompson heard DC drug kingpin Rayful Edmond III was seen w/Alonzo Mourning, he met w/ Edmond & basically told him, “don’t f*ck w/ my players.” Edmond listened. From 1989 — https://t.co/vsCcWHyQ7x #RIPJohnThompson pic.twitter.com/nHCmTe7xbM— Charles T (@ChuckyT3) August 31, 2020
A list of John Thompson accolades:— Adam Howes (@Howsito) August 31, 2020
- First African-American head coach to win a major collegiate championship
- 2× NBA champion ('65, '66)
- NCAA champion ('84)
- NABC Coach of the Year ('85)
- 🥉 Olympics ('88)
- 3× Big East COTY ('80, '87, '92)
- HOF class of '99
R.I.P Coach pic.twitter.com/eAq7TDhymT
Allen Iverson's Hall of Fame speech speaks volumes about the impact Thompson had on his life and countless others.— Kendall Baker (@TheKendallBaker) August 31, 2020
"I want to thank Coach Thompson," Iverson said while fighting back tears. "For saving my life."https://t.co/t42Yne7b7V
- 1st African-American head coach to win a major collegiate championship in 1984— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) August 31, 2020
- 3 NCAA Final Fours
- 3x National Coach of the Year
- 7 Big East Tournament Championships
- Coached Hall of Famers Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo & Allen Iverson.
RIP John Thompson pic.twitter.com/XBqICBr99D
We lost another gentle giant.— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) August 31, 2020
Big John Thompson passed away overnight. Another gut punch.
A leader of men. Fantastic father - and great friend to so many. An incredible role model.
Rest, Coach. Rest, John.🏀🏀💔 pic.twitter.com/dJnU2n7eAy
RIP John Thompson, one of the game’s greatest coaches. His teams were smart, disciplined and ferocious on defense. Thompson was thoughtful and forceful on social issues, and always took the principled stand. A true giant, on the floor and off. pic.twitter.com/6QeqW3S0T8— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) August 31, 2020
The first black coach a lot of us ever saw. A man who made us think Georgetown was an HBCU, who nurtured Iverson, Ewing & Alonzo. Famously fought off drug dealers. Had boys rockin Kente at a college that purchased the enslaved to cancel school debt. Rest in Power, John Thompson pic.twitter.com/mO6buBKiCS— Tyler R. Tynes (@TylerRickyTynes) August 31, 2020
Ex-Georgetown Coach John Thompson Saves Boys & Girls Club in Washington D.C. from closing.— Shomari Stone (@shomaristone) August 31, 2020
NBC Washington Shomari Stone’s Exclusive report. (MARCH 29, 2013) #ICYMI #RIPJohnThompson #JohnThompson https://t.co/cQs55H1mNl pic.twitter.com/5K04phkkCp
Our Museum mourns the loss of basketball coach John Thompson Jr.— Smithsonian NMAAHC (@NMAAHC) August 31, 2020
In 1984, Thompson became the first African American head coach to win a national title. His spirited energy and approach to life and basketball pushed players to be better on and off the court. #GameChangers pic.twitter.com/FXSxkDOEHI
Rest In Peace John Thompson Sport and Society are forever indebted to you my friend, mentor to all, Industry Giant. My prayers are with family and friends on this difficult day. #GeorgetownFamily pic.twitter.com/Pprz6RvsqU— Isiah Thomas (@IsiahThomas) August 31, 2020
This year just keep getting worse!!— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) August 31, 2020
RIP COACH JOHN THOMPSON. I was honored to have the opportunity to pick your brain and learn from you while in DC. You had the look of intimidation and focus but had the mindset of a wise man. You’re a legend and will truly be missed!!
We lost a giant last night. He was ahead of his time. John Thompson, John Chaney & Nolan Richardson in the 80’s were fighting the fight long before the “bubble.” (And, don’t believe what you heard. He was a big teddy bear of a man.) RIP, Large Father. pic.twitter.com/QODMyDcEfp— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) August 31, 2020
Coach John THOMPSON R.I.P. pic.twitter.com/Tvj3csEmEX— Rick Doc Walker (@RickDocWalker) August 31, 2020
Yet another titan lost in the Black community. I loved talking to John Thompson because he always challenged you with raw truth.— Brandon Parker (@brandoncparker) August 31, 2020
The towel, the Prop 48 protest, the 🔥 kente cloth jerseys, the countless young men he poured into. A true pioneer. Rest In Power, #JohnThompson pic.twitter.com/aEJyJt4pda
Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutumbo....that’s a hell of a legacy pic.twitter.com/2Q1X0XpzdX— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) August 31, 2020