On Sunday, August 30th, 2020 the legendary and transcending former head coach of the Georgetown University Hoyas, John Thompson Jr., unfortunately passed away at the all well experienced age of 78 at his home in Arlington, Virginia. He was truly one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, and he was a man that left an extremely strong impact upon everyone around him.
Thompson was well-known for leading Georgetown to the 1984 NCAA National Championship, building the Hoyas basketball program from nothing into a juggernaut, taking Georgetown University to three Final Fours in the 1980’s as well as winning seven Big East titles, and leading the 1988 United States National Team to a bronze medal in the Olympics.
Hall of Fame Basketball Players He Coached and Strongly Influenced
- Patrick Ewing – Played at Georgetown from 1981 to 1985. Under the tutelage of Thompson, Ewing won the 1984 NCAA National Championship as well as being selected as the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player that year. Selected by the New York Knicks with the number 1 overall pick in the 1985 NBA draft. Patrick became an 11 time NBA All Star, and he was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1985.
- Alonzo Mourning – Played at Georgetown from 1988 to 1992 where Mourning earned All American honors. He was named Big East Player of the Year in 1992. Selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the number 2 overall pick in the 1992 NBA draft. Although Alonzo played the majority of his NBA career with the Miami Heat where he finally won a much deserved NBA Championship with the Heat in 2006. He was an NBA All Star 7 times, and he was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year twice (1999, 2000).
- Dikembe Mutombo – Played at Georgetown from 1988 to 1991. Mutombo won the Big East Defensive Player of the Year award two times (1990, 1991). Selected by the Denver Nuggets with the number 4 overall pick in the 1991 NBA draft. Dikembe played in the NBA with a variety of teams over his illustrious career including the Denver Nuggets, the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers, the New Jersey Nets, the New York Knicks, and the Houston Rockets. He was an NBA All Star 8 times, and he was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year 4 times (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001).
- Allen Iverson – Iverson played at Georgetown University from 1994 to 1996. With the Hoyas Allen earned First Team All Big East honors in 1996 as well as being named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year twice (1995, 1996). Selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the number 1 overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft. During his amazing career in the NBA Iverson won the NBA MVP in 2001 when he led the 76ers to the NBA Finals during that season. He was an NBA All Star 11 times, and he was the NBA’s scoring champion 4 times (1999, 2001, 2002, 2005).
Coaching Achievements, Awards, and Honors
Thompson was the head coach of the Georgetown University Hoyas from 1972 to 1999. His overall college basketball coaching record was 596 wins and 239 loses which was good enough for a winning percentage of .714. He won the NCAA National Championship in 1984. John won the Henry Iba Award in 1982. He won the NABC Coach of the Year in 1985, the UPI Coach of the Year in 1987, and he was named the Big East Coach of the Year 3 times (1980, 1987, 1992).
His outstanding work on and off the basketball court enabled him to be inducted to both the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach as well as the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. Thompson won a bronze medal in the 1988 Olympics when he was the head coach of the United States men’s basketball team. His leadership and success opened the door for many other minority coaches to get the opportunities that they received to coach either college basketball or in the National Basketball Association. He will forever be remembered as one of the best basketball coaches as well as an outstanding man. John Thompson Jr. will be greatly missed by so many, but his impact will live on forever.
“We are heartbroken to share the news of the passing of our father, John Thompson, Jr,” the Thompson family explained in a statement Georgetown University released. “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.
“However, 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. We will miss him but are grounded in the assurance that we carry his faith and determination in us. We will cherish forever his strength, courage, wisdom and boldness, as well as his unfailing love.
“We know that he will be deeply missed by many and our family appreciates your condolences and prayers. But don’t worry about him, because as he always liked to say, ‘Big Ace is cool.’“
“This is a person that, when I came to college — I was 18 — helped me to grow,” says Patrick Ewing who is the current Georgetown head coach. “Even though my mom and dad were always there, he was always a person I could pick up the phone and call if I had a problem or if I had a question.”
“I’ve done this because, out of frustration, you’re limited in your options of what you can do in response to something I felt was very wrong,” John Thompson Jr. expressed. “This is my way of bringing attention to a rule a lot of people were not aware of — one which will affect a great many individuals. I did it to bring attention to the issue in hopes of getting [NCAA members] to take another look at what they’ve done, and if they feel it unjust, change the rule.”
PC Men’s Basketball Tweeted:
The Friar family mourns the loss of John Thompson ‘64. He was a legendary player and an even greater person. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Thompson family.
Rest In Peace.”
“I’ve never been around a man who managed men in my life any better than Red Auerbach,” Thompson stated. “Particularly, the egos he had to deal with, the cross cultures he had to deal with and all the variations in the kinds of people that I saw him be associated with.”
“When I was hired,” Thompson said, “I had a talk with the president [then the Rev. Robert Henle, S.J.]. All that Father Henle said about basketball was that he hoped I could take a team to the NIT every now and then. I thought to myself that I’d eat my hat if I couldn’t do better than that. But I didn’t say anything except, ‘Yes, sir, I’ll try,’ because you don’t want to set yourself up.”
It wasn’t without controversy that a sign in the rafters of McDonough Arena that season read, “Thompson the n—– flop must go.”
“He was one of a kind,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim remembered. “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.”
”You know that I’m going through a problem with my marriage right now,” Thompson said. ”I owe it to my family to address that. I would be irresponsible if I didn’t address that.”
Allen Iverson Tweeted:
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…….”
Patrick Ewing Tweeted:
Georgetown University, the sport of basketball and the world has lost someone who I consider to be a father figure, confidant and role model.
We will all miss you, Coach Thompson – but we will never forget you. 🙏🏿”
Jay Bilas Tweeted:
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.”
Bradley Beal Tweeted:
This year just keep getting worse!!
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!!”
Renee Montgomery Tweeted:
RIP to the Georgetown legend John Thompson. He coached Allen Iverson, Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning amongst others and won 7 Coach of the year awards in his lifetime. Prayers up for his family and friends.”
Jim Boeheim Tweeted:
(1/3) We lost a great basketball coach and a great person with the passing of my friend John Thompson. He was a leader in the game and in life. John empowered all coaches but especially Black coaches and Black players.”
Rex Chapman🏇🏼 Tweeted:
John Thompson passed away last night.
He was the first Black coach to win a NCAA title.
He won two as a player w the Celtics.
He had a 97% graduation rate for his players at Georgetown.
Here is Allen Iverson thanking John for saving his life. 🌎 🏀 💔”
Richard Jefferson Tweeted:
So many lives were changed by great men like Coach Thompson.”
Mike Brey Tweeted:
Saddened to hear about the passing of John Thompson Jr.
Growing up in the DC area and watching him build the Georgetown program from the ground up was an inspiration.
His family, friends, former players and all those he inspired are in my thoughts and prayers today.”
Fran Fraschilla Tweeted:
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.”
Kevin Love Tweeted:
RIP John Thompson. One of the all time best coaches and mentors in college basketball history. 💔🙏🏻”
J.B. Bickerstaff Tweeted:
A coach and man that I admired dearly. Watched the impact that he had on young men and admired him even more for that! RIP Coach!”
Washington Wizards Tweeted:
Statement from @TedLeonsis on the passing of Coach John Thompson Jr. ❤️”
Kara Lawson Tweeted:
Growing up in the DMV, there was never a doubt that you could build a dominant program as an African-American. John Thompson is a legend that made us all proud. RIP 🙏🏽”
Lindsay Gottlieb Tweeted:
I met Coach John Thompson when our Cal WBB team played at Georgetown in Nov 2013. A larger than life figure that I revered on the tv, in person he was kind, gracious and thoughtful. RIP to an icon, on the court and off.”
John Thompson Jr.’s Coaching Record
Georgetown University Hoyas Men’s Basketball History