Legendary Georgetown basketball Coach John Thompson Jr. has died. While his cause of death has not been released, friends and family have confirmed the news, ABC7 WJLA reported. He was 78.
Thompson was the first Black head coach to win a NCAA championship when he led the Hoyas to victory in 1984. It was a feat that had eluded the team for 32 years. Under his leadership the Hoyas became a powerhouse, going to three Final Fours and winning seven Big East titles, according to ESPN.
He coached several NBA icons, including Hall-of-Famers Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo and Allen Iverson, who credited Thompson with saving his life.
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“I want to thank Coach Thompson. For saving my life. For giving me the opportunity. I was recruited by every school in the country for football and basketball. And an incident happened in high school and all that was taken away. No other teams, no other schools were recruiting me anymore. My mom went to Georgetown and begged him to give me a chance. And he did,” Iverson said during his Hall Of Fame speech.
Iverson’s words were underscored by Dean Smith, former head men’s basketball coach a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“He was so good for coaching. No one — and I mean no one — could have made Georgetown a national power better than John Thompson did when he became the head coach. Every team he ever coached played hard and together and did what he wanted them to do,” Smith said of Thompson.
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Thompson himself played for the Boston Celtics with Bill Russell for two seasons, during which they won two championships. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.
His autobiography is set to be released in January 2021. He is survived by his children: John Thompson III, Ronny Thompson and Tiffany Thompson.