Monday morning sent the basketball universe, and the world at large, into mourning after news broke that longtime Georgetown coach John Thompson passed away at the age of 78.
Thompson was a pioneer for African-American coaches and players at the collegiate level, and an enormously successful figure in the history of college basketball. In addition to becoming the first African-American head coach to win a Division I championship in 1984, he won three National Coach of the Year awards, earned three Final Four berths and claimed seven Big East tournament titles. At Georgetown, he coached future NBA greats from Patrick Ewing to Dikembe Mutombo to Allen Iverson to Alonzo Mourning — all Hall-of-Famers.
Thompson, himself, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999, the same year he retired from Georgetown after 27 seasons. After his retirement, he worked as a television commentator, primarily for TNT, and radio broadcaster.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued the following statement in the wake of the news.
“John Thompson influenced the lives and careers of generations of NBA players as a Hall of Fame coach and devoted mentor. John loved the game and was passionate about teaching its values, which were also on display during his time as an NBA broadcaster,” Silver wrote. “His impact extended far beyond his accomplishments as a two-time NBA champion player and NCAA championship-winning coach, with John inspiring so many — including me — by using his powerful voice to fight for social justice and speak out against racial inequality.
“We extend our deepest condolences to John’s family, friends and the many players and coaches who benefitted from his guidance and wisdom.”