Legendary Georgetown Hoops Coach John Thompson Dead at 78

Thompson was the first Black head coach to guide an NCAA basketball team to a national title

Ex-Georgetown Hoyas head coach John Thompson Jr. looks on before a 2019 college basketball game.
Ex-Georgetown Hoyas head coach John Thompson Jr. looks on before a 2019 college basketball game.
Getty Images

Legendary Georgetown college basketball coach John Thompson Jr. is dead at age 78.

Thompson, known as big “Big John” in the world of NCAA basketball, led the first run to a national title by a Black head coach when he helped guide the Hoyas to the championship in 1984.

He helped build Georgetown into a basketball powerhouse in the ’80s, bringing the program to three Final Fours in the decade while also winning seven Big East titles and shepherding the United States national team to a bronze medal in the 1988 Summer Olympics.

His coaching resume also includes the development of four Hall-of-Fame players: centers Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and guard Allen Iverson. Thompson himself was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

“This is a person that, when I came to college — I was 18 — helped me to grow,” Ewing, the current Georgetown coach, said last fall. “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.”

“He was a giant. What he did coaching speaks for itself,” former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese told Yahoo Sports. “As we’ve sat here and watched what’s going on with the NBA and social justice, John did it 30 years ago. But he did it by himself.”

The captain of the Providence’s first NCAA tournament team in 1964, Thompson carried the Friars to the NIT championship the year before in 1963.

A draft pick of the Boston Celtics, Thompson played sparingly in the NBA during his two-year pro career but did win championships in 1965 and 1966.

Win the Ultimate Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix Experience

Want the F1 experience of a lifetime? Here’s your chance to win tickets to see Turn 18 Grandstand, one of Ultimate Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix’s most premier grandstands!