John Thompson, First Black Coach To Win NCAA Championship, Dies At 78

Legendary Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson is dead at 78. Thompson spent two years in NBA, playing on the Boston Celtics as Bill Russell's backup. He ended up with two NBA championships with the franchise in 1965 and 1966. He could have continued to play in the NBA, but decided to try his hand at coaching.

He took a job at St. Anthony Catholic School and had a 122-28 record during his six-year tenure. He was hired by Georgetown in 1972 and helped turn the school into a perennial powerhouse, recruiting future NBA stars, including Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. He led the Hoyas to three Final Fours in the 1980s while also winning seven Big East titles. In 1984, the he led the Hoyas to a national championship, becoming the first Black coach in history to accomplish the feat. He also led the 1988 United States national team to a bronze medal in the Olympics.

Thompson resigned in the middle of the 1998-99 season, ending his career with a 596-239 record and was enshrined in the NBA Hall of Fame.

"We are heartbroken to share the news of the passing of our father, John Thompson Jr. 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. However, for us, his greatest legacy remains as a father, grandfather, uncle, and friend. More than a coach, he was our foundation," his family said in a statement. "More than a legend, he was the voice in our ear every day. We will miss him but are grounded in the assurance that we carry his faith and determination in us. We will cherish forever his strength, courage, wisdom, and boldness, as well as his unfailing love. 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.'"

Photo: Getty Images

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