DJ 33 1/3

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Basketball Has Lost John Thompson At 78

Legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson has died at age 78.

Thompson, coached Georgetown to 3 Final Fours in four years winning the the 1984 national championship, building the program into a national power. Georgetown won seven Big East titles and Thompson led the 1988 United States national team to a bronze medal in the Olympics.

"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. However, for us, his greatest legacy remains as a father, grandfather, uncle, and friend. More than a coach, he was our foundation. More than a legend, he was the voice in our ear everyday. We will miss him but are grounded in the assurance that we carry his faith and determination in us. We will cherish forever his strength, courage, wisdom and boldness, as well as his unfailing love. We know that he will be deeply missed by many and our family appreciates your condolences and prayers. But don't worry about him, because as he always liked to say, 'Big Ace is cool.'"

Thompson's coaching legacy includes the recruitment and development of four Basketball Hall of Famers: Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Allen Iverson.

Thompson, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999. He was a pioneer credited with opening the door for a generation of minority coaches and his national title run in 1984 was the first by a Black head coach and altered the perception of Black coaches.

Thompson starred for Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington and led Providence to the 1963 NIT championship and the school's first NCAA tournament team in 1964.

The Boston Celtics' Red Auerbach selected Thompson in the third round of the 1964 NBA draft. Thompson was a backup to Bill Russell and won championships with the franchise in 1965 and 1966.

He accepted a post as the head coach at the prestigious St. Anthony Catholic School in Washington in 1966. He was 122-28 during his six-year prep coaching career before Georgetown hired him in 1972.

"When I was hired," Thompson told Sports Illustrated in 1980, "I had a talk with the president [then the Rev. Robert Henle, S.J.]. All that Father Henle said about basketball was that he hoped I could take a team to the NIT every now and then. I thought to myself that I'd eat my hat if I couldn't do better than that. But I didn't say anything except,  'Yes, sir, I'll try,' because you don't want to set yourself up."

"He was one of a kind," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, a fierce rival for many years. "There aren't that many. He brought a presence to the game that nobody does, has. He was a great coach, but he was also a role model for a lot of coaches -- white coaches and Black coaches."

Photos by Getty Images

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