Legendary Georgetown head coach John Thompson has died at age 78
The college basketball world lost a literal giant on Monday, as the Thompson family confirmed the passing of former Georgetown head coach John Thompson. “Big John” was just a few days away from his 79th birthday.
Thompson led the Hoyas for 27 seasons and was hugely instrumental in the popularization of East Coast college basketball and the Big East Conference. His impact stretched beyond Georgetown and onto the culture of the sport itself, becoming a mentor and role model for young African-Americans all over the country.
On the court, he turned the Hoyas into a national powerhouse. His teams went to twenty NCAA Tournaments, reaching the Final Four three times and winning the whole thing in 1984 behind future Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing (the first NCAA title won by a black head coach).
A former Providence star who walked the sidelines at an imposing 6’10”, Thompson mentored several other players who would reach the Naismith Hall of Fame, including big men Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo and 2001 NBA MVP Allen Iverson.
“Thanks For Saving My Life Coach,” Iverson said on Twitter Monday morning. “I’m going to miss you, but I’m sure that you are looking down on us with a big smile.”
Mutombo memorialized his coach on social media, as well, stating “he was my mentor, great teacher, hero and a father figure to so many us [sic] who got the chance to play for him.”
Thompson remained connected to the Georgetown program after stepping down as head coach in 1999, as the team was coached until 2004 by his longtime assistant Craig Esherick and then from 2004-17 by his son, John Thompson III.
“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,” the family said in a statement. “We will cherish forever his strength, courage, wisdom and boldness, as well as his unfailing love.”
“But don’t worry about him, because as he always liked to say, ‘…”Big Ace'” is cool.”
The full statement from the family can be found here.
credit to Ezra Shaw/Getty Images for the image