Coach John Thompson’s persona is bigger than life. He passed away on August 30, 2020. He was 78 years old. Today’s athletes are walking off courts in protest of social issues and police misconduct. It is safe to say Big John Thompson did it his way. Coach is definitely in a class all by himself. He did not win as much as other coaches, but he was still more critical to the game with the likes of Coach K and John Wooden.
In 27 years at Georgetown University, Coach Thompson won a championship over Houston and reaching the national title games in 1982 and 1985. For 19 straight seasons, from 1978 through 1996, his teams reached at least No. 16 in AP national polls.
Teams like the University of Nevada Las Vegas, which won the 1990 NCAA title, Michigan’s Fab 5, reached two straight title games in 1992 and 1993 and introduced baggy shorts to the gym’s across America. Even though those programs’ leadership was more talented, Thompson was a leader of men. He helped turn around the lives of many so many of his players.
The coach is credited with helping build ESPN. In the early 1980’s college basketball games, particularly those like Georgetown-Syracuse were highly-rated programming.
Future NBA Hall of Fame players — Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, and Allen Iverson — were mentored by the iconic coach. On Monday, both Iverson and Mourning said Thompson “saved my life.”
The coach took a chance on Iverson and as a result, he was the 1st overall pick in the 1996 draft. The world has lost an icon and a leader. Thompson will be missed.
Written by Jasmin Williams
TIME: John Thompson remembered for a larger than-life-influence that extended far beyond basketball; Sean Gregory
Featured Image Courtesy of PingNews’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Fanside.com’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License