John Thompson, the imposing Hall of Famer who turned Georgetown into a “Hoya Paranoia” powerhouse and became the first Black coach to lead a team to the NCAA men’s basketball championship, has died. He was 78.
His death was announced in a family statement Monday. No details were disclosed.
“More than a legend, he was the voice in our ear every day,” the statement said. “We will miss him but are grounded in the assurance that we carry his faith and determination in us.”
One of the most celebrated and polarizing figures in his sport, Thompson took over a moribund Georgetown program in the 1970s and moulded it in his unique style into a perennial contender, culminating with a national championship team anchored by centre Patrick Ewing in 1984.
At six-foot-10, with an ever-present white towel slung over his shoulder, Thompson literally and figuratively towered over the Hoyas for decades, becoming a patriarch of sorts after he quit coaching in 1999.
One of his sons, John Thompson III, was hired as Georgetown’s coach in 2004. When the son was fired in 2017, the elder Thompson — known affectionately as “Big John” or “Pops” to many — was at the news conference announcing Ewing as the successor.
A list of John Thompson accolades:
– First African-American head coach to win a major collegiate championship
– 2× NBA champion (’65, ’66)
– NCAA champion (’84)
– NABC Coach of the Year (’85)
– 🥉 Olympics (’88)
– 3× Big East COTY (’80, ’87, ’92)
– HOF class of ’99
R.I.P Coach pic.twitter.com/eAq7TDhymT