Having played professionally for the Boston Celtics for only two years, John Thompson then earned a master’s degree in guidance counseling. From there he coached St. Anthony’s High in Washington, D.C. and then moved up to coach the Georgetown Hoyas. When he took over, the team’s record from the previous year was a measly 3-23. After three seasons of his stewardship, the team was making the cut for the NCAA tournament. The 1982-83 team made it to the NCAA Finals against North Carolina and a young Michael Jordan, where they were defeated. The next year Thompson and his team returned, led by Patrick Ewing, to beat University of Houston 84-75, making Thompson the first black head coach to have a team win the NCAA Championship.
For 14 straight years between 1979 and 1992 his team attended the NCAA tournament. He still holds many Big East conference records such as most overall wins and most regular-season wins. He has coached 26 of his players to be drafted into the NBA. In 1988 he was picked as head coach of the US Olympic team, then still amateurs. They lost to the Soviet Union in their penultimate game and then beat Australia to win the bronze.
Known for fiercely protecting his players, he once called a Hoyas fan D.C. area drug lord who had reached out to and befriended some of the players on his team in to his office where he told him to cease all contact with his players immediately and to never make contact them or any future players again. After repeating the statement more abrasively, the drug lord got the message and ceased to communicate with any Georgetown basketball players from then on. He retired from coaching in 1999 and that same year was inducted into the hall of fame. Since then, he has been a frequent commentator for both college and professional basketball.
Photo courtesy of Hard Road to Glory, John Thompson