Legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr., known simply as Big John has died at the age of 78. Thompson was the first Black head coach to win a major collegiate championship when he led the Georgetown Hoyas to victory in the 1984 NCAA National Championship.
Thompson built the college basketball program into a juggernaut, taking Hoyas to three Final Fours in the 1980s. He is also credited to winning seven Big East titles while leading the 1988 United States national team to a bronze medal in the Olympics.
Statement from Family
“We are heartbroken to share the news of the passing of our father, John Thompson, Jr,” the Thompson family said in a statement released by Georgetown. “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.'”
Among Thompson’s coaching legacy includes the recruitment and development of four players in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame: Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, and Allen Iverson.
“This is a person that, when I came to college — I was 18 — helped me to grow,” Ewing, the current Georgetown coach, said during Big East media day last October. “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.”
John Thompson Jr. Legacy
John Thompson Jr. was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999. He is credited for pioneering the opportunities for minority coaches for generations to come. His national title run in 1984 was monumental in changing perception towards Black coaches.
Born Sept. 2, 1941, Thompson starred for Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington before leading Providence to the 1963 NIT championship and serving as captain for the school’s first NCAA tournament team in 1964.
It is often said that Big John didn’t run Georgetown basketball. He was Georgetown basketball.
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