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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Thompson
Title Head coach
College Georgetown
Sport Basketball
Born September 2, 1941 (1941-09-02) (age 68)
Place of birth Washington, D.C.
Career highlights
Overall 596–239 (.715)
NCAA 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)
Playing career
1960–1964 Providence
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
St. Anthony HS
(Washington, D.C.)
John Thompson (basketball)
Born September 2, 1941 (1941-09-02) (age 68)
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m)
Listed weight 270 lb (122 kg)
High school Archbishop John Carroll (Washington, D.C.)
College Providence
Pro career 1964–1966
Former teams Boston Celtics
Hall of Fame 1999

John R. 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 defeated the University of Houston 84–75.


Early Life

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. 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 Molloy, 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 '60 season with a thrilling 57-55 win over St Catherine's in the Knights of Columbus Tournament with Thompson pacing the Lions with fifteen points. Thompson would finish the season as the top scorer in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, averaging twenty-one points per game.

Playing career

After graduating from Archbishop Carroll, Thompson went to Providence College, where he played on the 1963 NIT Championship team, 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. Currently, Thompson is eleventh on the all-time scoring list at PC, fourth in scoring average, sixth in field goal percentage, and third in rebounds.

He played two years in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Boston Celtics in 1964–1966. 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 coach at St. Anthony High School in Washington, D.C.. After racking up an impressive 122–28 record as a high school coach, Thompson was hired to become the head coach of the men's basketball team at Georgetown University.

Before retiring from playing basketball in 1966, Thompson had been selected by the Chicago Bulls in that year's expansion draft.

Coaching 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. Inheriting a Georgetown team which had been just 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 an impressive 596–239 (.714), running off a streak of 24 postseason appearances - 20 in the NCAA tournament, four 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.

Thompson still holds conference records for most overall Big East wins (231), most regular-season Big East wins (198) and conference championships (seven regular season, six tournaments). 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, eight in the first round including two players selected first overall, Ewing by the New York Knicks in 1985 and Iverson by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996.

Hoya Paranoia and the glory years

During the Hoya's glory years the term "Hoya Paranoia" became indelibly linked to Thompson and Georgetown basketball program. The term was originally coined by Mark Asher of The Washington Post and used to describe Hoya fans' insecurity toward pro-Maryland media bias, but it soon came to refer to the team's unusual forced seclusion from the media and Thompson's suffocating control over his program. Unlike most programs of the day, Thompson's practices were closed to the media and the players were placed off-limits to the members of the press. Backers of Thompson would defend Thompson's actions as his way of protecting his program and its players from detrimental media coverage and attention. In very real ethnocentric terms Georgetown in the 1980s was viewed as a team of Twelve Angry Men—or, to be very specific, "Twelve Angry Black Men." They had a cadre of intimidating players, who happened to be African American, their reputations enhanced by the stifling press defense and aggressive offense which Thompson employed and encouraged.

Of course, much of it was fictionalized and borne out of racial stereotypes of the time. For example, it was oft-reported Thompson made the Hoyas stay more than an hour away from Seattle in Canada when they won the national title in 1984. In reality, they stayed across the street from the airport, less than a half-hour out of town. There were other embellishments that lent credence to Thompson's us-against-our-detractors world.

Thompson was a master tactician, employing a psychological chip on the shoulder of his teams by creating an "us against them" mentality among his players. Whether he specifically used race as the binding force in this belief is debatable although what certainly is not is the media's perception and perpetuation of the belief that he did.


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 Gym. In 1975, after another perceived mediocre year, a sign was hung at the top of the rafters reading "Thompson the n-word flop must go."[2] The University quickly took down the sign and silenced talks for his termination.

Taking on the Most Powerful Drug Lord in D.C.

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,[3] whose crew was connected to at least forty homicides.[4] At the height of his empire, Edmond became very friendly with several Hoya 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,[5] specifically John Turner and Mourning, both of whom had befriended Edmond.[6] 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.[7] It has even been alleged, but not confirmed, that Thompson threatened to either kill Edmond or have him killed if he did not leave his Hoyas alone.[8][9]

By all accounts, Edmond never associated with another Hoya 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] While he felt embarrassed and humiliated by the encounter, Edmond could not bring himself to seek any retaliation whatsoever. Thompson was a black man Edmond truly admired and revered, and he respected the honor, presence, and leadership role that Thompson commanded in the black community.

1988 Olympic Team

Thompson, who had served as an assistant coach for the gold medal winning team in the 1976 Summer Olympics, coached the United States 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 semi-finals 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.

News of the humiliating loss sent shockwaves across the country and following the conclusion of the 1988 Olympics, Thompson came under heavy criticism for the players he selected for the team and the coaching style he employed. In particular, his critics pointed to the absence of notable players such as 1989 Naismith College Player of the Year Danny Ferry, and the inclusion of Mourning (then just a high school player) as one of the 17 Olympic team finalists, as examples of Thompson's professional incompetence during the selection process. Critics would additionally cite the Ferry/Mourning case as further proof of Thompson's blatant racism, although it must be noted that Ferry injured his knee during a pre-draft workout with the Washington Bullets prior to the final cut. Thompson proponents often point to Bobby Knight's handling of the 1984 Olympic Team (in which future Hall of Famers Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and John Stockton were cut, and Knight's star white guard Steve Alford was kept), as examples of the double standard to which black coaches are often held.


On January 8, 1999, Thompson shocked the sports world by announcing his resignation as Georgetown's head coach, citing marriage problems. The legendary coach was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on October 1, 1999. Thompson was replaced by longtime assistant Craig Esherick, a popular player's coach.

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.

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


After retiring from coaching, Thompson continued to be active in basketball as a commentator for both professional (mainly for TNT) and collegiate games. He also hosts The John Thompson Show, a sports talk show on ESPN 980 (formerly Sports Talk 980) in Washington, D.C. Thompson is perhaps best known for preluding interviews with the statement, "let me ask you a question..." Thompson signed a lifetime contract with Clear Channel Radio and SportsTalk 980 in Feb. 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 works with former Washington Redskins tight end Rick Walker and producer Chuck Sapienza.

Head coaching record

Season Team Overall
Georgetown (Independent/ECAC South/Big East Conference) (1972–1999)
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
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 Finalist
1982–1983 Georgetown 22–10 11–5 2nd
1983–1984 Georgetown 34–3 14–2 1st NCAA Champion
1984–1985 Georgetown 35–3 14–2 2nd NCAA Finalist
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-7th 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 1st NCAA Second Round
1992–1993 Georgetown 20–13 8–10 5th NIT Finalists
1993–1994 Georgetown 19–12 10–8 T-4th NCAA Second Round
1994–1995 Georgetown 21–10 11–7 4th NCAA Sweet 16
1995–1996 Georgetown 29–8 13–5 1st BE7 NCAA Elite Eight
1996–1997 Georgetown 20–10 11–7 1st BE7 NCAA First Round
1997–1998 Georgetown 16–15 6–12 T-5th BE7 NIT First Round
1998–1999 Georgetown 7–6 0–3 7th NIT First Round

Thompson resigned 1/8/99; Escherick coached rest of season.

Total: 596-239

      National Champion         Conference Regular Season Champion         Conference Tournament Champion
      Conference Regular Season & Conference Tournament Champion       Conference Division Champion

See also



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