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Ex Georgetown Coach John Thompson Jr. Dies At 78

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Ex Georgetown Coach John Thompson Jr. Dies At 78

He was the first African-American coach to win a Division I NCAA Championship.

Trailblazing Georgetown basketball coach, John Thompson Jr., passed away over the weekend. He was 78.

Thompson was the first Black coach to win a national championship, which he did with Georgetown in 1984. Throughout the ’80s, he took Georgetown Hoyas to three Final Fours and the 1988 U.S. team to Olympic bronze.

“We are heartbroken to share the news of the passing of our father, John Thompson, Jr,” the Thompson family said in a statement released by Georgetown. “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. He is revered as a historic shepherd of the sport, dedicated to the welfare of his community above all else.”

Throughout his career, Thompson recruited and developed NBA Hall of Famers such as Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, and Allen Iverson.

Johnson was born on Sept. 2, 1941, in Washington D.C., and played two championship-winning seasons (1965 and 1966) with the Boston Celtics as a backup to Bill Russell. He chose to retire from pro ball early in order to coach. When Georgetown hired him in 1972, after only winning three games in the year prior. By 1975 he took them to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 32 years.

“When I was hired,” Thompson told Sports Illustrated in 1980, “I had a talk with the president [then the Rev. Robert Henle, S.J.]. All that Father Henle said about basketball was that he hoped I could take a team to the NIT every now and then. I thought to myself that I’d eat my hat if I couldn’t do better than that. But I didn’t say anything except,  ‘Yes, sir, I’ll try,’ because you don’t want to set yourself up.”

Winning became a dominant theme of Thompson’s career. He boasted an impressive 596-239 record after retiring in 1999.

Ex Georgetown Coach John Thompson Jr. Dies At 78
Reid Koski

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