Iconic Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson Jr. dies at 78

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Former legendary Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson Jr. has died at age 78, NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller has confirmed.

Thompson became the first Black coach to win an NCAA championship in 1984. Earning Big East coach of the year honors three times, he turned the Hoyas program into the gold standard for Big East baskeball during his 27 years at the helm. He was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Baskeball Hall of Fame in 1999.

Thompson is survived by his three children, John Thompson III, Ron and Tiffany.

Thompson took the Georgetown job in 1972, inheriting a 3-23 team. Prior to taking the job, Thompson became a Washington D.C. basketball legend in his playing days at Archbishop Carroll High school. An imposing 6-foot-10 center, he led Carroll team to 55 consecutive victories. Thompson played college basketball at Providence before winning two titles with the Boston Celtics during a brief NBA career as the backup to Hall-of-Fame center Bill Russell. 

Learning under Celtics Hall-of-Fame coach Red Auerbach, Thomspon quickly turned to coaching after he left the NBA. He took over the basketball program at St. Anthony's in D.C., compiling a 122-28 record before taking the Georgetown job. 

There, Thompson turned the Hoyas into a perennial powerhouse. The Hoyas won the Big East Tournament six times in the conference's first 10 years. Georgetown appeared in three Final Fours in 1982, 1984 and 1985 and reached the NCAA Tournament 20 times. Thompson mentored eight NBA first-round draft picks and 26 overall, including Patrick Ewing, Alozno Mourning and Allen Iverson. He finished with 596 career NCAA wins. Thompson also coached the United States to a bronze medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and was an assistant coach on the 1976 gold-medal winning team in Montreal. Thompson stepped down as Georgetown head coach in 1999. 


The Thompson family released the following statement.

“We are heartbroken to share the news of the passing of our father, John Thompson, Jr. 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 everyday. 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.”