Former Georgetown men’s basketball coach John Thompson dies at 78

August 31, 2020

Thompson and Ewing pose together when Ewing was a player.

Former Georgetown men’s basketball coach John Thompson Jr. died at the age of 78 early on August 31, 2020. He will be remembered for his advocacy for his players and for Black athletes, as well as building Georgetown basketball into a national championship caliber program which won the title in 1984. 

The 1984 title was the first for the Hoyas and Thompson was the first Black head coach of a NCAA championship team. On the national stage, Thompson advocated for recognition of discrimination in sports saying, “I might have been the first black person who was provided with an opportunity to compete for this prize, that you have discriminated against thousands of my ancestors to deny them this opportunity.” 

In 1989, in response to the NCAA’s Proposition 42, Thompson famously walked off the court before a game in protest of the measure which he believed targeted opportunities for minority students. Thompson was not afraid to tackle challenges off the court, including confronting notorious D.C. cocaine trafficker Rayful Edmond III, warning him to stay away from his players.  

A D.C. native, Thompson played at Providence College before a two year career with the Celtics. In 1972, he was hired as the Hoyas head coach, a position he would hold for 27 years. Over the course of his coaching career, Thompson held a record of 596–239, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame less than a year after his retirement from coaching. 

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