Former Georgetown coach John Thompson dies at 78

Legendary Georgetown college basketball coach John Thompson has died, his family announced in a statement released by the school’s athletic program Monday morning. He was 78. The family’s statement did not provide any details of his death.

Thompson, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999, became the first Black head coach to win the NCAA national title when he guided the Hoyas in 1984. 

“We are heartbroken to share the news of the passing of our father, John Thompson, Jr.,” the family said in a statement. “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.”

In 27 seasons (1972-99) at Georgetown, Thompson had a 596-239 career record, and 97% of the student-athletes he coached who stayed for four years (76 of 78) left the university with a degree, according to Georgetown. He led Georgetown to three Final Fours and 20 NCAA tournaments.

The three-time Big East coach of the year retired in 1999, and Thompson’s son, John Thompson III, later became Georgetown’s coach from 2004-17. 

Thompson coached several future NBA greats, including Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Patrick Ewing, the 1985 national player of the year and the team’s current head coach.

In his 2016 Hall of Fame speech, Iverson credited Thompson for “saving my life” after giving him a scholarship when other elite schools rescinded their offers following Iverson’s three felony convictions that were later overturned

Thompson had most recently been a basketball analyst for Turner Sports and Westwood One. 

In his playing career, Thompson was Hall of Famer Bill Russell’s backup with the Celtics after a standout career at Providence, where he scored 1,520 points in 79 games.

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