Each One, Teach One: Elite Black Coaches Who Are Better Mentors

Each one, teach one is a phrase associated with giving back through charity or mentorship. The most impactful coaches are part parent, part mentor, part big brother/sister. 

This special breed of instructors has your best interests at heart, both on and off the court. The Shadow League wanted to amplify to some of the accolades these fatherly (and motherly) figures for the effects that impactful guidance can have on the lives of others. 

John Robert Thompson Jr. – Coach, Georgetown Men’s Basketball

Listing the many black men that came through Coach Thompson’s program and have excelled in the game of life would be a daunting task. The hard-nosed court general never shied from a recruit that needed the structure to compete at the D1 level. 

Two modern NBA Hall Of Famers often cite their time in the district as being their foundation for becoming men. 

76ers’ royalty Allen Iverson, thanked Thompson during his 30min plus HOF speech for “saving his life”. 


AI’s high school run-in with the law made him to be a percieved toxic prospect before he stepped foot on the Georgetown campus, yet Thompson’s steady hand allowed him to not only to compete but to grow up in every sense of the word. 

“I want to thank Coach Thompson, For saving my life. Forgiving me the opportunity. I was recruited by every school in the country for football and basketball. And an incident happened in high school and all that was taken away. No other teams, no other schools were recruiting me anymore. My mom went to Georgetown and begged him to give me a chance. And he did.”

11 Time NBA All-Star, Center Patrick Ewing can relate. He not only had an illustrious career on the hardwood but followed Thompson to the sidelines as the current coach for Georgetown University. 

“Coach Thompson, thank you for letting come to Georgetown as a boy, and leaving as a man,” Ewing said during his 2012 HOF speech.

Tony Dungy – NFL Hall Of Fame Coach

Like Thompson, the NFL’s Tony Dungy has influence that goes beyond the gridiron. While the great Bill Walsh’s coaching tree could be argued to be the game’s prolific, Dungy’s is the blackest.

His impact as a trailblazer is second to none for hiring black coaches. Herm Edwards, Lovie Smith, Jim Caldwell, Leslie Frazier, and Mike Tomlin, all former or current head coaches, owe various degrees of success to Dungy.

And like Dungy himself, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Tomlin is the only other Black head coach to win a Super Bowl.  In a 2017 interview, Tomlin elaborates on some of the advice that his mentor gave him that’s allowed him to thrive in the Steel City.

“You’ve got great instincts,” Dungy said, “so trust them.”

To trust requires faith. Faith has been a non-negotiable for Dungy, letting Christ-like principles lead him in all aspects of life. Even after the very public death of his son, Dungy’s even hand has been called to help mentor those deemed “troublesome” to reenter back into the league, including Mike Vick.

After being released from prison due to his involvement in a dogfighting ring, Vick owed big money to lawyers, the NFL, you name it. Through the guidance of Dungy, Vick turned a 180, on the field, in his bank account, and for his community.

Certain shoutouts hit differently. Considering the connection between the two, no wonder Vick considers Dungy to be an inspirational figure.

Thompson and Dungy are but two of many coaches/mentors whose impact can’t be measured with stats. Who are some of your favorite Black mentors in sports?

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