The friendship between Coaches Dean Smith and John Thompson is heavily documented. The two shared laughs, families, and basketball; there wasn't an accomplishment the two missed in support of the other—a true brotherhood definition.
Standing at 6-foot-10, Thompson and Smith are often in photos side-by-side, embracing one another even after tough losses.
The announcement of his passing was released in a statement by his family. Thompson leaves behind two sons, John Thompson III, Ronny Thompson, and one daughter, Tiffany Thompson. He was surrounded by family and friends in his Virginia home as he passed at 78.
Thompson's career started as a third-round pick by the Boston Celtics in 1964. This a short stint in the league after two years, he was the back-up center for Bill Russell and won two NBA championships.
Shortly after, Thompson served as a high school coach before Georgetown poached after amassing a 122-28 record at St. Anthony High School. He was officially named the Hoyas head coach in 1972.
The Washington native coached Georgetown for 27 seasons; He finished with an impressive record of 596-239. He taught players such as Dikembe Mutumbo, Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, and Allen Iverson.
He coached Georgetown to 20 NCAA appearances and won in 1984 with Ewing. He won Big East Coach of the Year three times (1980, 1987, 1992). With Coach Smith as head coach, he was an assistant coach for the 1976 Olympics. In 1988 he coached the last US collegiate team in the 1988 Summer Olympics winning bronze. Thompson was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. He was the first Black coach to win an NCAA title.
76 of 78 of Thompson's players received their degrees. 97% graduation rate.
Ewing was interviewed in 2015 about his recruitment. He stated that when he mentioned Georgetown to Coach Smith, who was recruiting him for Carolina, Smith told him to play for Thompson if he wasn't selecting Chapel Hill.
"We were sitting down having breakfast, and he told me if I chose not to come to North Carolina, go to Georgetown," Ewing said. "I'm not going to say that played a part of a role in me going to Georgetown, but I thought it was very nice of him to say that. Dean Smith, I'm not sure how many championships he's won, but when you talk about Dean Smith, North Carolina, he's definitely a legend in the college game."
It was also during the time North Carolina was recruiting Michael Jordan. When Ewing was asked about his thoughts concerning the potential perfect lineup,
"Imagine that team; If I had gone there, it would have been myself, Michael, Worthy, Perkins. That would have been a hell of a front line."
Roy Williams released a statement about Thompson's passing,
In 2015, Thompson was the first recipient of the Dean Smith award. An award that takes pride in its namesake to be gifted to a coach who holds and represents the same values.
When Thompson won the award everyone knew it was perfect first choice.
"I said you hit my soft spot (when told of the award)," Thompson said. "I cannot say no to anything that is associated with him or his actions or what he stood for. And I'd rather eat a bug than attend things like this.
"I appreciate it that you think, in any way, that my name can be mentioned with this man. That's the biggest lie I've heard in my life. He was special, very special."
Thompson's legacy is unmatched. One can only imagine who chose Kobe Bryant first for pick-up... probably Coach Smith.
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