John Thompson Great Coach Dies at 78

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John Thompson, basketball legend, unanimously hailed as a great coach, has died at the age of 78. There has been an outpouring of sentiments from those who were fortunate enough to experience his great leadership on and off the court.

While it would be apropos to tout the impressive statistics he achieved while apart of the NCAA league — 1999 Hall of Famer, a 596-239 record (.715 winning percentage), 76-78 players received their degrees, and 26 players drafted by the NBA — it is equally appropriate to shed light on the great man Thompson was off the court.

A great coach and man overall will take chances to see the best in people. He gave a chance to those who may not otherwise have been given an opportunity or a platform to showcase their talents. As a coach, he changed the lives of many Black athletes.

He recruited them into the predominately white Jesuit University in Washington. Iron sharpens iron. So naturally, some of the greatest NBA basket players known today were coached and groomed by Thompson. While at Georgetown University, Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning, and Allen Iverson are a few of the household names who crossed his path.

In a heartfelt tribute, Iverson wrote, “Thanks For Saving My Life Coach.” Without the second chance that Thompson gave him, fans might not have ever witnessed the greatness that Iverson contributed to the basket industry and pop culture.

The comments repetitively state Thompson was a great coach, but he was a much greater man when he was off the sidelines of basketball courts. He firmly and publicly took stands against social and racial injustices. Like the time he walked off the basketball court in protest against NCAA Proposition 42. It unfairly discriminated against underprivileged students — mostly minorities. The bill was later abolished.

Thompson’s experiences groomed him to be an exemplary role model and life teacher. He cemented his role as a great coach, father, family member, activist, teacher, mentor, and a stickler for academics. He made it apparent his belief was that education was more important than basketball.

He kept a deflated basketball on his desk to remind his players of the importance of not putting all of their trust in a system that could be easily deflated. He lived by this creed and ultimately used basketball as a draw. Thompson’s accomplishments stretched far beyond the basketball court and for that, he was great and will be sorely missed.

Written by Sheree Bynum
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware


New York Daily News: John Thompson, legendary Georgetown coach and Basketball Hall of Famer, dies at 78; Andy Clayton

AP News: Coaching great John Thompson of Georgetown dead at 78; Joseph White

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of osseous’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License


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