August 31, 2020
Legendary Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson died Sunday night at 78 years old, prompting an outpouring of tributes Monday morning.
Among them was a message from NBA Hall of Famer and Philadelphia 76ers great Allen Iverson, who played under Thompson for two seasons from 1994-1996. Iverson became the Big East Rookie of the Year and helped lead the Hoyas to an Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament during his sophomore season.
But it went beyond basketball for Iverson, who credits Thompson for saving his life when he was jailed in connection with a 1993 brawl in his hometown of Hampton, Virginia. Thompson defied critics by standing behind Iverson, whose conviction was later overturned due to insufficient evidence.
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Thanks For Saving My Life Coach. I’m going to miss you, but I’m sure that you are looking down on us with a big smile. I would give anything just for one more phone call from you only to hear you say, “Hey MF”, then we would talk about everything except basketball. May you always Rest in Paradise, where there is no pain or suffering. I will always see your face in my mind, hoping that I made you proud. “Your Prodigal Son”. #Hoya4Life
Iverson, 45, was moved to tears when discussing Thompson during his 2016 induction speech to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, where Thompson is also enshrined.
John Thompson passed away last night.— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) August 31, 2020
He was the first Black coach to win a NCAA title.
He won two as a player w the Celtics.
He had a 97% graduation rate for his players at Georgetown.
Here is Allen Iverson thanking John for saving his life.🌎🏀💔 pic.twitter.com/QY88pOWeHC
Thompson led Georgetown to a national championship in 1984, becoming the first Black coach to win a college title, and made three Final Four appearances during his 27-year coaching tenure at the university. He stepped down from his role in 1999 and Georgetown later hired his son to coach the team until 2017.
In addition to Iverson, Johnson coached NBA stars Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo, who along with Iverson made an NBA Finals appearance with the Sixers in 2001. Mutombo called Thompson a "hero" in a statement Monday morning.
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Very sad news to wake up to on this cloudy morning. Our legendary Georgetown coach, John Thompson has passed away. He was my mentor, great teacher, hero and a father figure to so many us who got the chance to play for him. Under coach Thompson, I learned a lot about the game of basketball but most importantly, I learned how to be a man in society. We will really miss him. RIP coach. 💔💔💔
Thompson's family said the coach died as a result of multiple health challenges he had been facing in recent years.
"We are heartbroken to share the news of the passing of our father, John Thompson, Jr," the Thompson family said in a statement released by Georgetown. "Our father was an inspiration to many and devoted his life to developing young people not simply on, but most importantly, off the basketball court. He is revered as a historic shepherd of the sport, dedicated to the welfare of his community above all else."