This weekend, legendary Hall of Fame basketball coach John Thompson has died. He was 78 years old.
Thompson was more widely known as the head coach of the Georgetown Hoya basketball team, and was the first black coach to win the NCAA tournament with a win in in 1984.
Washington, D.C. news station WJLA reported the news on Monday morning, which was followed by a statement from the family.
We are heartbroken to share the news of the passing of our father, John Thompson Jr. 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 every day. 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.”
Thompson, a native of Washington D.C., was a trailblazing figure in sports. Thompson went to college at Providence and was part of the team that won the 1963 NIT championship. In 1964 he helped Providence reach the NCAA tournament for the very first time, and was also an All-American.
In the NBA, Thompson played two seasons for the Boston Celtics as a back up for Bill Russell, and won two world championships. In 1966, he retired and moved on to coach at St Anthony High School in Washington D.C.
In 1972, he got the coaching job at Georgetown. After a 2-23 record in is first season, he moved on to become the legendary coach we know today.
Thompson made a tremendous impact on and off of the court. Thompson amassed a record of 596-239 in hid 2 year at Georgetown, and even more important, 97 percent of his athletes stayed in college for all four years to earn a college degree
Some exceptions are a few of the NBA stars that he coached, including Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo. Thompson had 26 of his players go on to the NBA Draft.
Thompson retired from Georgetown in 1999 and was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame in the same year. In 2006, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
When the news broke of his death, tributes poured in. One in particular was touching, and that was from Allen Iverson, who 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…….“
“….May you always Rest in Paradise, where there is no pain or suffering. I will always see your face in my mind, hoping that I made you proud. “Your Prodigal Son”.
Thompson has an autobiography scheduled for a 2021 release.