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Former Georgetown Coach John Thompson - 1941-2020

Very sad news about the former Hoya coach

Marquette v Georgetown
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 18: Former Georgetown Hoyas coach John Thompson Jr. looks on before a college basketball game against the Marquette Golden Eagles at the Capital One Arena on January 18, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

What does it say about John Thompson that we never even considered he might die? You imagine him in his office and Death comes by and crooks a finger and Thompson says “get the hell out of my office, I’m busy! Wait just a minute...can you defend?”

The man had a magnificent gruffness to him but you got the feeling that so much of that was him having to play defense.

Thompson was a hugely successful and influential coach, but he was born when segregation was still a reality and came of age in the 1960’s and, like a lot of people of his generation, dealt both the outrages of segregation, the great openings of the Civil Rights era and also the powerful emotions that accompanied both.

You got the sense though that behind it all he was a very kind and thoughtful man who felt obliged to stay on his guard because the world around him was so frequently cruel.

We’re not sure how many readers will know this but Thompson went from a high school coach to the coach of Georgetown and struggled for a couple of years. At one point, somebody or a group of somebodies - nobodies honestly - hung a banner up saying “Thompson the n**** flop must go.”

The whole idea of Hoya Paranoia happened for a reason. Aside from his own anger over racial discrimination, he no doubt felt obliged to protect his young charges as much as he could.

You can measure him by his accomplishments as a coach of course and they are many: three Final Fours, the first Black coach to win a national championship, the huge legacy he built at Georgetown - but we’d imagine that he was as proud of this as anything else: he graduated 97% of his players.

The NCAA always talks about academics but not everyone buys in. Thompson did and he did it at a very demanding school.

He wasn't necessarily an easy man to like, which was usually by his own choice. He was, however, an easy man to admire. His death is a great loss for the basketball world and beyond.