John Thompson (basketball)

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John Thompson
Ronald Reagan with John Thompson, Patrick Ewing.jpg
John Thompson (left) meets with Ronald Reagan and Patrick Ewing
Sport(s) Basketball
Current position
Title Coach Emeritus
Team Georgetown
Biographical details
Born (1941-09-02) September 2, 1941 (age 72)
Washington, D.C.
Playing career
1960–1964 Providence
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1966–1972
1972–1999
St. Anthony HS (Washington, D.C.)
Georgetown
Head coaching record
Overall 596–239 (.714)
Accomplishments and honors
Championships
NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship: (1984)
Regional Championships – Final Four (1982, 1984, 1985)
Big East Tournament Championship (1980, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989)
Big East Regular Season Championship (1980, 1984, 1987, 1989, 1992)
Awards
1999 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
John Thompson
Center
Personal information
Born (1941-09-02) September 2, 1941 (age 72)
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 10 in (208 cm)
Listed weight 270 lb (122 kg)
Career information
High school Archbishop John Carroll
(Washington, D.C.)
College Providence (1961–1964)
NBA draft 1964 / Round: 3 / Pick: 25th overall
Selected by the Boston Celtics
Pro playing career 1964–1966
Career history
1964–1966 Boston Celtics

John Robert Thompson, Jr. (born September 2, 1941) is an American former basketball coach for the Georgetown University Hoyas. He is now a professional radio and TV sports commentator. In 1984, he became the first African-American head coach to win a major collegiate championship, capturing the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship when Georgetown, led by Patrick Ewing, defeated the University of Houston 84–75.

Early life[edit]

Thompson was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and is a practicing Roman Catholic.[1] As a child, his mother insisted on sending him to Catholic schools for the educational opportunities and academic challenges.[citation needed] At Archbishop Carroll High School, Thompson emerged as a standout center, playing in three consecutive City Championship games (1958–60). In 1959, Carroll All-Mets Thompson, Monk Malloy, George Leftwich and Tom Hoover won over Cardozo 79–52. The next year, Thompson and Leftwich led the Lions over the Ollie Johnson/Dave Bing led Spingarn, 69–54. During his senior year, Thompson led Carroll to a 24–0 record, preserving their 48-game winning streak along the way. Carroll capped off the undefeated 1960 season with a 57–55 win over St Catherine's in the Knights of Columbus Tournament with Thompson pacing the Lions with 15 points. Thompson finished the season as the top scorer in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, averaging 21 points per game.[citation needed]

Playing career[edit]

After graduating from Archbishop Carroll, Thompson went to Providence College, where he played on the 1963 NIT Championship team with Ray Flynn, and was part of the first Providence NCAA tournament team in 1964. He was an All-American in his senior year of 1964. Upon graduation, Thompson was the Friars' all-time leader in points, scoring average, and field goal percentage, and second in rebounds.[citation needed] Currently, Thompson is 11th on the all-time scoring list at PC, fourth in scoring average, sixth in field goal percentage, and third in rebounds.[citation needed]

He was drafted in the third round in 1964 and played two years in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Boston Celtics in 1964–1966.[2] At 6'10" (2.08 m), 270 lbs (122.5 kg) he backed up Bill Russell, the Celtics star center, en route to two championships. Nicknamed "The Caddy" for his secondary role to Russell, his career as a player was unimpressive, however, and he retired in 1966 to begin a much more successful career in coaching.[3]

Before retiring as a player in 1966, Thompson was selected by the Chicago Bulls in that year's expansion draft.

Coaching career[edit]

Georgetown[edit]

Thompson was the head coach at St. Anthony High School in Washington, D.C. from 1966 to 1972, racking up 122–28 record.

Next, Thompson was hired to become the head coach of the men's basketball team at Georgetown University, where he spent the remainder of his Hall of Fame career.

Thompson, an imposing figure on the sidelines who towered over many opposing coaches (and players, for that matter), was often noted for the trademark white towel that he carried on his shoulder during the games, a color from which his critics took symbolic meaning.[citation needed] Inheriting a Georgetown team which had been 3–23 the year before, Thompson quickly and dramatically improved the team, making the NCAA tournament within three seasons. Over the following 27 years, Thompson's Hoyas went 596–239 (.714), running off a streak of 24 postseason appearances – 20 in the NCAA tournament and 4 in the NIT – including a 14-year streak of NCAA appearances from 1979–1992 that saw three Final Four appearances in 1982, 1984 and 1985, winning a National Championship in 1984 and narrowly missing a repeat the next year by losing to underdog Villanova.

He won seven Coach of the Year awards: Big East (1980, 1987, 1992), United States Basketball Writers Association and The Sporting News (1984), National Association of Basketball Coaches (1985) and United Press International (1987). Thompson coached many notable players, including Patrick Ewing, Sleepy Floyd, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Allen Iverson. Under Thompson, 26 players were chosen in the NBA Draft,[citation needed] 8 in the first round including 2 players selected first overall, Ewing by the New York Knicks in 1985 and Iverson by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996.

Controversy[edit]

John Thompson's career as head coach of Georgetown was not without controversy. Perhaps one of the most controversial incidents was the hanging of a sign in the McDonough Gymnasium. In 1975, after another perceived mediocre year, a sign was hung at the top of the rafters reading "Thompson the nigger flop must go."[4] The University quickly took down the sign and silenced talks for his termination.

Confronting drug lord[edit]

In the late 1980s, Thompson got word that several of his players, including Alonzo Mourning, were associating with noted DC drug lord (and avid Hoya fan) Rayful Edmond III,[5] whose crew was connected to at least forty homicides.[6] At the height of his empire, Edmond became very friendly with several Hoyas players. When Thompson confirmed what was happening, he sent word through his sources to have Edmond meet him at his office at McDonough Gymnasium.

When Edmond arrived, Thompson was initially cordial, and informed Edmond that he needed to cease all contacts with his players post haste,[7] specifically John Turner and Mourning, both of whom had befriended Edmond.[8] When Edmond tried to assure him that his players were not involved in anything illegal, the 6'10" Thompson stood up and pointed his index finger between Edmond's eyes. Thompson, known for his legendary volatility, quickly boiled over, and unleashed a profanity-laced tirade in which he told Edmond that he didn't care about his crew's violent reputation or propensity to commit murder. Edmond had crossed a line with Thompson's players, and Thompson was not going to allow Edmond to destroy the players' lives.[9]

By all accounts, Edmond never associated with another Hoyas player on a personal level. It was believed that Thompson was the only person to stand up to Edmond without consequence,[10] initially causing some shock and surprise that there was no reprisal.[11]

1988 Olympic Team[edit]

Thompson, who had served as an assistant coach for the gold medal winning team in the 1976 Summer Olympics, coached the US team at the 1988 Summer Olympics. Although favored to win the international tournament, the United States was narrowly defeated by the Soviet Union in the semifinals 82–76, marking the first time the United States did not reach the gold medal game. The team proceeded to win its final game against Australia to secure the bronze medal.

Resignation[edit]

On January 8, 1999, Thompson announced his resignation as Georgetown's head coach, citing marriage problems. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on October 1, 1999. Thompson was replaced by longtime assistant Craig Esherick, a popular player's coach.[citation needed]

Esherick was fired in 2004 and replaced by John Thompson III, the old coach's eldest son. At the time the elder Thompson was serving Georgetown in what Rev. Leo J. O'Donovan, university president, referred to as a "coach emeritus" position, assisting on academic, athletic and community projects.[citation needed]

His younger son, Ronny Thompson, formerly an assistant coach at Georgetown, had been the head coach at Ball State University.

Commentator[edit]

After retiring from coaching, Thompson continued to be active in basketball as a commentator for both professional (mainly for TNT) and collegiate games. He hosted The John Thompson Show, a sports talk show on ESPN 980 in Washington, D.C. Thompson is perhaps best known for beginning interviews with the statement, "Let me ask you a question..."[citation needed] Thompson signed a lifetime contract with Clear Channel Radio and SportsTalk 980 in February 2006. He continues to spend a lot of time around the Georgetown basketball program, including traveling to road games and participating in press conferences. He worked with former Washington Redskins tight end Rick Walker and producer Chuck Sapienza. Thompson left ESPN 980 in March 2012 to pursue other broadcasting opportunities.

Head coaching record[edit]

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Georgetown Hoyas (Independent) (1972–1979)
1972–1973 Georgetown 12–14
1973–1974 Georgetown 13–13
1974–1975 Georgetown 18–10
1975–1976 Georgetown 21–7 NCAA First Round
1976–1977 Georgetown 19–9 NIT First Round
1977–1978 Georgetown 23–8 NIT Semifinals
1978–1979 Georgetown 24–5 NCAA First Round
Georgetown: 130–66
Georgetown (Big East) (1979–1999)
1979–1980 Georgetown 26–6 5–1 T–1st NCAA Elite Eight
1980–1981 Georgetown 20–12 9–5 2nd NCAA First Round
1981–1982 Georgetown 30–7 10–4 2nd NCAA Runner–up
1982–1983 Georgetown 22–10 11–5 2nd NCAA Second Round
1983–1984 Georgetown 34–3 14–2 1st NCAA Champions
1984–1985 Georgetown 35–3 14–2 2nd NCAA Runner–up
1985–1986 Georgetown 24–8 11–5 3rd NCAA First Round
1986–1987 Georgetown 29–5 12–4 T–1st NCAA Elite Eight
1987–1988 Georgetown 20–10 9–7 2nd NCAA Second Round
1988–1989 Georgetown 29–5 13–3 T–1st NCAA Elite Eight
1989–1990 Georgetown 24–7 11–5 2nd NCAA Second Round
1990–1991 Georgetown 19–13 8–8 4th NCAA Second Round
1991–1992 Georgetown 22–10 10–6 T–1st NCAA Second Round
1992–1993 Georgetown 20–13 8–10 5th NIT Runner–up
1993–1994 Georgetown 19–12 10–8 T–4th NCAA Second Round
1994–1995 Georgetown 21–10 11–7 4th NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1995–1996 Georgetown 29–8 13–5 1st (BE 7) NCAA Elite Eight
1996–1997 Georgetown 20–10 11–7 1st (BE 7) NCAA First Round
1997–1998 Georgetown 16–15 6–12 T–5th (BE 7) NIT Second Round
1998–1999 Georgetown 7–6 0–4 7th NIT First Round
Total: 596–239 (.714)

      National champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

Thompson resigned January 8, 1999; Craig Escherick coached the rest of the season.

See also[edit]

References[edit]