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.