Georgetown coaching great John Thompson dead at 78

Orange Nation

Coach John Thompson in 1999. (Getty Images)

Legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson has died at 78. Thompson is best known in Central New York for his rival with Syracuse University Head Basketball Coach Jim Boeheim.

Boeheim released the following statement about Thompson’s death on Monday:

“We lost a great basketball coach and a great person with the passing of my friend John Thompson. He was a leader in the game and in life. John empowered all coaches but especially Black coaches and Black players.

Syracuse and Georgetown was the toughest rivalry for about 10-15 years during the early BIG EAST days. There was nothing quite like it. Many of my fondest coaching memories are from Georgetown games, coaching against John – in the Dome, at Georgetown and at MSG.

Juli and I want to express our condolences to John’s family and the Georgetown basketball community. John was one of a kind.”

His death was initially reported by Washington, D.C., radio station, The Team 980.

“More than a legend, he was the voice in our ear every day,” his family said in a statement Monday. “We will miss him but are grounded in the assurance that we carry his faith and determination in us.”

Known as “Big John,” the 6-foot-10 Thompson was the first Black coach to win the NCAA championship. He led the Hoyas to the title in 1984.

He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.

Under Thompson, the Hoyas made it to three Final Fours in the 1980s. He also led the 1988 U.S. national team to an Olympic bronze medal.

With an ever-present white towel slung over his shoulder, Thompson led Georgetown for 27 seasons. He retired from coaching in 1999.

Recently, Thompson stepped down in May from the Nike Board of Directors, and his autobiography is set to be released in January.

There was no immediate word on a cause of death.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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