John Thompson, the Washington native who elevated Georgetown University basketball to national prominence, earned Hall of Fame honors and carved a place in history as the first African American coach to lead his team to the NCAA championship, has died at 78.
He was simply known as “Big John” throughout college basketball band built the Georgetown program into a juggernaut, taking the Hoyas to three Final Fours in the 1980’s while also winning seven Big East titles and leading the 1988 United States national team to a bronze medal in the Olympics.
Physically imposing at 6-foot-10 and nearly 300 pounds and possessed of a booming bass voice that commanded authority better than a shrill whistle could, Mr. Thompson built his teams around similarly intimidating centers such as Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Allen Iverson, and Alonzo Mourning and a physical, unrelenting approach to defense.
Thompson was the head coach at St. Anthony High School in Washington, D.C.. from 1966 to 1972, racking up a 122–28 record. After coaching St. Anthony, Thompson was hired to become the head coach of the men’s bsketball team at Georgetown University, where he spent the remainder of his hall-of-fame career.
Thompson was born in Washington, D.C. September 2, 1941 and passed in Arlington, Virginia on August 30, 2020.
In a statement released by Georgetown, the family said, “We are heart broken to share the news of the passing of our father, John Thompson, Jr.” The family added, “However, for us, his greatest legacy is as a father, grandfather, uncle, and friend. We know that he will be deeply missed by many and our family appreciates your condolences and prayers. But don’t worry about him, because as he always liked to say, ‘Big Ace is cool.'”
The loss of legendary “Big John” will be mourned and missed by family, and friends as well as college basketball and Georgetown basketball. Rest in Peace.