WASHINGTON, D.C. (WJZ) — Legendary former Georgetown Hoyas basketball coach John Thompson Jr. has died at the age of 78 according to multiple media reports. The cause of death was not released.
Thompson was the architect behind the Hoyas rise beginning in the 1970s running through 1997. He led the Hoyas to the national championship in 1984, which part of a run of three Final Four appearances in four seasons. Over his 27 seasons as head coach of the program, Thompson won seven Big East titles, made 20 NCAA Tournament appearances and recruited four of the program’s all-time great players in centers Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and point guard Allen Iverson. Iverson took to Twitter Monday saying thank you to the coach he credits with saving his life.
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
Ewing, now the head coach at Georgetown after taking over from Thompson’s son John Thompson III, said last year at Big East Media Day that he credits Thompson Jr. with a lot of his growth as a person on and off the court.
“This is a person that, when I came to college — I was 18 — helped me to grow,” said Ewing. 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.”
Thompson was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999 and is often credited with opening the door for Black coaches. His 1984 national title win was the first by a Black head coach.
Thompson also used his position as head coach to speak out on matters he found to be wrong within the NCAA. Prior to a game with Boston College in 1989, he walked off the court in protest of Proposition 48, an NCAA regulation that banned academically ineligible freshmen from receiving scholarships. He told the Washington Post that he believed the rule was aimed at limiting opportunities for minority students.
“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,” said Thompson at the time. “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.”
Born in Washington, D.C. on September 2, 1941, Thompson played at Archbishop Caroll before moving on to Providence and leading the Friars to the NIT championship in 1963 and the school’s first NCAA appearance in 1964. Thompson played in the NBA for two seasons with the Boston Celtics and was part of the championship winning teams in 1965 and 1966.
After his NBA career, Thompson returned to the D.C. area, taking over as head coach at St. Anthony Catholic School. In his six-year high school coaching career he compiled a 122-28 record.
Thompson then took over at Georgetown in 1972 and over the course of 27 seasons put together a 596 and 239 record. The 596 wins places him 41st on the all-time coaching wins list.
Thompson’s survivors include his sons, John Thompson III and Ronny Thompson, and daughter Tiffany Thompson.