John Thompson was the first Black coach to win the NCAA Championship. In 1984, he led the Georgetown Hoyas to victory over the Houston Cougars. In 1985 Thompson was named Coach of the Year. He coached at Georgetown University from 1972 to 1999.
Thompson was a coach who set the bar high for his players on and off the basketball court. He coached Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutumbo. He became a mentor to many long after they left Georgetown and competitive basketball.
Thompson had a preference for players that had a passion for the game on the court. He once said, “you can calm down a fool before you can resurrect a corpse.”
He emphasized the power of habit, attitude and state of mind with his players. “If you think you are beaten you are. If you think you dare not, you won’t,” he once said.
“Big John Thompson is the single most important African American man in the history of D.C. sports,” Sia writer Clinton Yeats. In 1999 he was selected to be in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
In 27 seasons, Thompson compiled a coaching record of 596-239. Most importantly to Thompson, 97 percent of his players stayed four years and left Georgetown University with a college degree.
Thompson was born in Washington, D.C. and went on to play in the NBA for the Boston Celtics.
Thompson is survived by his three children, John Thompson III, who also coached basketball at Georgetown, Ronny Thompson and Tiffany Thompson. Thompson’s autobiography is due out in January 2021.
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist for NNPA and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is also a political strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke