In life, you have kings and king makers. Then of course there is Coach John Thompson. The sometimes outspoken, but humble giant. Such a formidable presence that Mount Kilimanjaro might come to mind. At first glance, you might mistake him for a WWF wrestler or a professional basketball player. Standing at 6'11 and over 270 pounds, make no mistake Coach Thompson definitely was that. The DC native played ball at Providence College and was one of the main cogs on their 1963 NIT championship roster featuring Irish sharpshooter turned politico Ray Flynn.
Thompson, a collegiate All-American, led the Friars to an NCAA tournament berth before he was drafted by the Celtics. His aptly titled nickname "The Caddy" made all the sense being he played back-up for a man many feel already had a place on basketball's Mount Rushmore (sorry Bron, Bron). The Celtic gentleman whom John Thompson shared tick with goes by the name of Bill Russell–arguably the greatest center ever.
Very cool story, bro! If you think Thompson's five plus career in the league is the final chapter you're solely mistaken.
The adage, "When the player is ready, a teacher appears" sums up Coach John Thompson. Mentored by fellow Hall Of Fame coach Red Auerbach, Thompson made his mark at Georgetown University mentoring many great players and future NBA stars like Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning, and more.
During a coaching career that spanned more than 27 years, the defensive-minded Thompson clutched 596 wins in his back pocket, much like his trademark white towel, en route to 24 consecutive NCAA postseason appearances. Within this time period, he applied his patented full court pressure on not just the Big East, but every decorated program in Division I men's basketball.
Winning was always a central theme for Coach Thompson. Check his stats. A winning percentage of 714 out of those 596 victories. He led the Hoyas to a 14 year string of consecutive big dance appearances from 1979–1992, earning him Final Four dates in 1982, 1984 (National Champ), and 1985.
It should be noted that Thompson, the first African-American coach to win a national title, very well could have had a three-peat. The Thompson-led Hoyas had a heart-wrenching loss in 1982 to a UNC team that featured a young Michael Jeffrey Jordan, front-court studs James Worthy and Sam Perkins. After trumping Hakeem Olujaween and the University of Houston for the title in 1984, they narrowly lost to the underdog Villanova Cats in the title game in '85. Win or lose, Georgetown had that Leroy glow. Much like Michael Jackson, Coach Thompson's Hoyas were always dangerous.
Thompson won seven Coach of the Year plaques during his award tour. And with good reason. Thompson encouraged all his young stars to go the distance on both ends of the floor. His legacy was with the players. Coaching was and will always be his crowning moment.