Well, it’s Sunday and this blog contributor hasn’t been locked out in anticipation of the expected shut down of Casual Hoya, yet, so here’s some more news and commentary about John Thompson, Jr. and the Georgetown Hoyas
Here are the links:
The family of John Thompson Jr. and Georgetown University are planning a virtual memorial service Oct. 3 for the legendary coach of the Hoyas men’s basketball team who died this past weekend, the school announced Thursday afternoon.
In a news release from the athletic department, Georgetown also said it will host an in-person event when it is deemed safe to do so amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
John Thompson virtual memorial service is planned for Oct. 3 https://t.co/Xt6gtDbL6C— Post Sports (@PostSports) September 4, 2020
“He and I, we would touch base from time to time while he was in the hospital,” Ewing said Friday during a Zoom call with local media. “Just what’s going on in the country, what’s going on with the university, with the pandemic, with me and all that stuff with him.
“He was then sent home over the last week or two weeks, and I was able to go over there Friday before he passed and sat and talked and just laughed and tell a few jokes, so I was able to say my goodbyes to him. Didn’t know it was going to be goodbye, because I was planning to go back and visit him.” Thompson died late Sunday night.
The next day, Ewing — the pupil turned coach of the Hoyas — began answering text messages from former teammates and others throughout college and professional basketball as news of Thompson’s death began to circulate.
He understands that he is now the school’s strongest link to Thompson, who took over a lowly Hoyas program and turned it into a national powerhouse.
“His legacy will always live on,” Ewing said during a video call with reporters. “Through me, through Alonzo (Mourning), through Dikembe (Mutombo), through all of the people he’s coached.”
“He has done a great job of teaching us not only to be great athletes but also great human beings. Now it’s my role, my responsibility to keep doing those things to the kids I’m teaching.”
“His teachings continue to guide me,” Ewing said. “I will definitely miss the opportunity to pick up a phone and call him with whatever questions I might have. Not only just coaching but also my life.”
“Big John will always be remembered for standing tall. But by loving the men he coached, he became something even bigger: he was a giant.”— Patrick Ewing (@CoachEwing33) September 6, 2020
It was an honor to narrate this tribute to Coach Thompson for @CBSSports. pic.twitter.com/mwqMd2cubX
It is strange how the world works sometimes, Thompson breathing his last breath as the basketball world finally takes up the causes he for years breathed life into. He spent his entire career boosting others, but not because he wanted to offer charity. In return for his investment in you, he expected something back — commitment, dedication, hard work, and above all else, to pay it forward. The players he recruited went to class and graduated, and the young coaches he championed turned around and championed others.
For years Thompson operated like a one-man search firm. He made a call to Oklahoma State, telling school officials why they’d be wise to hire Hamilton. He suggested George Raveling, his dear friend, hire Hewitt, his camp counselor (something Hewitt only learned decades later). He became a late-night adviser, Hamilton calling frequently to ask for guidance on any and all topics.
Even with his clout, Thompson couldn’t lift everyone on his own. In 1987, empowered by an affirmative action movement sweeping sports, Rudy Washington, then an assistant coach at Iowa, spearheaded the creation of the Black Coaches Association. Thirty coaches met in Las Vegas that summer to discuss what their mission would be.
I was sitting next to John Thompson at NABC meeting one year and he told me, “if you don’t tell kids the truth, you’re telling them you don’t care about them. If you tell kids the truth, you’re telling them you love them.” Great coaches impact lives. He did it as well as anyone. pic.twitter.com/SGtTY7ahHM— Steve Hawkins (@Coach_Hawk_WMU) September 3, 2020
But Thompson got straight to work, slowly building the program up. By 1975, his third season, he had gotten the Hoyas back to the NCAA Tournament. He would lead the Hoyas to twenty NCAA Tournament appearances, including a stretch of 18 in 19 years during the glory days of Georgetown basketball.
He was also part of the very beginning of Big East Basketball. Coach Thompson and Georgetown were one of the six programs that were part of the conference’s first season in Division 1, along with another Hall of Famer in Jim Boeheim of Syracuse. Those two were part of some legendary battles in the league for 20+ years and the hard-nosed defensive styles were a hallmark of what the Big East became famous for.
In a not small gamble—Georgetown’s basketball team had a 3-23 record for the previous season—Rev. Robert Henle, S.J., in 1972 hired the young coach from St. Anthony’s. Three years later his team was to make the first of 20 appearances in the NCAA National Tournament, including a streak of 14 consecutive turns. He also played a major role in the formation of the Big East Conference in 1979. As a member of the Board of Directors at Georgetown, I knew John in the mid-80’s when he took the Hoyas to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament in 1983, 1984 and 1985—winning in 1984 with Patrick Ewing as his star center and becoming the first Black coach to lead his team to a national championship. (He resented the attention this brought him, believing that many another Black coach could have done as well had he been given the right opportunities.)
“Coach” saw the power of basketball to give disadvantaged young men access to a better life. (He kept a deflated basketball on his desk as a reminder that the game was not a destination but preparation for something larger to come.) As his reputation grew, he took the platform readily to demand better opportunities for the education of Black athletes and the further positions they might ambition. His discipline was rigorous: Mary Fenlon, a former nun he had known at St. Anthony’s, became the students’ famous academic guide and they never traveled except in coat and tie. 75 out of the 77 players who stayed for four years at the university received degrees.
Coach Thompson was a father figure to so many of us. He impacted every life he touched while he was with us. His legacy lives on through all of us.— Patrick Ewing (@CoachEwing33) September 4, 2020
Thirteen years later Thompson signed off for a final time but not before bringing in the biggest guests and a barbershop like sound to the airwaves. Rev Jesse Jackson, Spike Lee, Bill Russell, Coach K and many others were always welcome on the show, and what made the show great was he connected with audience members young and old. Thompson was just as successful on the air as he was on the bench...
Thompson was on radio row in Dallas in 2014, and we got the scheduled interview. For anyone that’s been to any radio row, you know that it’s a cattle call of sorts. You get 10 minutes or so with a big name guest, then they move to the next station. When Coach Thompson came over, his handler brought a taller chair for him to sit on, which was different than anyone else who sat on the normal chair that was provided. John Thompson is the type of guest who you just allowed to talk, and don’t rush his answers. As I sat literally feet from my favorite college hoops coach ever, that one bead of sweat was pouring down my back. Honestly I don’t know what I asked, but for ten minutes it was me and a legend. His voice overpowered my headphones and I was mesmerized by every word he spoke. After the interview I thanked him, we shook hands, took a picture and he moved to the next table.
Legendary basketball coach John Thompson died Monday at age 78. He leaves behind a towering legacy: at Georgetown, in college basketball, and throughout American culture at large.@AlanSiegelDC: https://t.co/UExOjsap6p— The Ringer (@ringer) September 5, 2020
The early 1980s success of the Georgetown basketball program on a national level was one of the rare success stories related to Washington D.C.’s inner-city life. The local community had been hit hard by crack, a nemesis that flourished on unemployment and inflation. But it went all the way down from there – crack cocaine transformed Washington into the murder capital of the United States.
“People are scared to get involved, scared to confront. That type of informal counseling is nonexistent. There are very few people like that in the streets anymore. The total pressure now is on the police.”
Thompson stood for so much more than basketball, even if he stood for it within the basketball realm, Allen recalled.
“The great shooters, we took their best shooter away from them,” Allen said. “That’s the way Thompson lived his life, full press forward, whether it was speaking out against discrimination and helping people in the D.C. area and giving away turkeys.”
This was an incredible story from Mark Tillmon on Big John Thompson. Tillman recounts his recruitment and also the first practice at Georgetown.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) September 4, 2020
“Mother——, can you count?” https://t.co/Az8nhgkqY4
The legacy of coach John Thompson, who died Aug. 30 at 78, is elevation of Georgetown basketball from a national nothing to a national power. That rise was interrupted on Saturday, Jan. 11, 1975, at Randolph-Macon.
The Yellow Jackets, then Division II, upset Thompson’s Division I Hoyas 84-74. Georgetown was 7-2 at the time, and beat St. John’s in New York the previous week. Thompson, in his third season as Georgetown’s coach, saw only about 15 minutes of the game in Ashland from the bench area. He drew three technical fouls in the first half and was ejected 5:11 before intermission. R-MC took a 49-27 halftime lead by shooting 54.1% in front of an overflow crowd of 2,000 at Crenshaw Gymnasium.
.@CoachEwing33 shares the story behind his mentor, the late John Thompson, encouraging him to go after the Head Coaching gig at @GeorgetownHoops— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) September 1, 2020
For Coach Ewing's full appearance: https://t.co/JEMf3FvyQ4 pic.twitter.com/MHBUpDNWjG
Savannah State basketball coach Horace Broadnax joins the Thursday episode of the Commute podcast to discuss his former college coach, who died earlier this week.
The two coaches knew the building well of course, and found a passage to the gym, while Thompson was engaged instructing his players. Crow and Buschenfeldt sleeked up to the back of the bleachers, quiet as mice.
Thompson eventually noticed the two spies. ‘He gave us a ‘How dare you,’ stare,” said Buschenfeldt.
“A hot death stare,” recalled Crow. The high school coaches didn’t want to press their luck, but were thrilled to at least watch how a big-time college coach ran the show for nearly the entire practice.
“It was phenomenal, just phenomenal,” said Buschenfeldt. “You could hear a pin drop. (Thompson) had everything down to a second. Boom. Boom. Boom. The team manager was keeping time, then just with a nod of Thompson’s head the players went to another drill. “It was awesome.”