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Georgetown Coach and Advocate Lives on Through His Legacy

At 6 feet, 10 inches tall, Coach John Thompson Jr. – affectionately known as “Big John” – stood above many as an athlete, pioneering NCAA coach, architect of the Big East, three-time Olympian and a champion and advocate for racial justice and his Washington, DC community. The world may have lost him on August 30, 2020, but Georgetown and broader communities will remember his impact and reach for years to come.

Obama Joins Georgetown, Athletics Communities in Memorial Service Honoring Coach

President Barack Obama joins members of the Georgetown and athletics communities during the Oct. 3 memorial service to reflect on the influence and impact Coach John Thompson Jr. made during his life as a coach, mentor, father figure and activist.

 

John Thompson Jr. stands on stage with a tribute to him projected in the background.
John Thompson Jr. stands courtside with his arms folded and a towel hanging from his shoulder.
John Thompson Jr. cuts the basket ball net after victory
An aerial view of John Thompson Jr. walking across the basketball court.
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Georgetown Pays Tribute to the Late, Great Basketball Coach

The university community he spent 48 years with reflects on the contributions of the beloved coach, who forever changed Georgetown basketball and led the Hoyas to win their first NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in 1984.

“It had to mean more to me than just winning the game.”

Coach John Thompson Jr.
John Thompson Jr. and Patrick Ewing embrace in celebration on the court after a game.

Why Basketball Matters

Basketball was always a means to an end for the coach who joined Georgetown as head men’s basketball coach in 1972 – a way toward a better education, a career and to make a difference. It was his hope to use his own success and achievements to open doors for others.

“Don’t let the sum total of your existence be 8-10 pounds of air.”

Coach John Thompson Jr.
Mary Feli, Dikembe Mutombo, John Thompson Jr. and another recent graduate stand together in Healy Hall.

A Focus on Academics

Coach Thompson recognized the importance of combined excellence on the court and in the classroom. He achieved an impressive 97% graduation rate as coach. Georgetown President John J. DeGioia reflects on Thompson’s transformative leadership at the university.

Maurice Jackson, associate professor of history and African American studies and affiliated professor of music at Georgetown, recalls the legendary coach’s impact on Georgetown, his players and the Washington, DC community in an interview on WAMU’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show.
Alumni donors and other members of the Georgetown community join John Thompson Jr. and Georgetown President John J. DeGioia with shovels for the ground-breaking.

Georgetown celebrates the groundbreaking of the John R. Thompson Jr. Athletics Center with current and former student athletes, university leaders and special guests.

John Thompson Jr. speaks with a woman at a local Boys & Girls Club.

John Thompson Jr., Georgetown’s head basketball coach emeritus, keeps a local Boys & Girls Club from closing with a gift of more than $40,000.

A bronze statue of john Thompson Jr. stands in the middle of the Georgetown Athletics logo inside the Thompson Athletic Center.

Share a Message of Remembrance

Share your favorite memory of Coach John Thompson Jr. or the most important parts of his legacy that you recall. #CoachThompson