John Robert Thompson, Jr. (born September 2, 1941) is an American former college basketball coach for the Georgetown Hoyas. He is now a professional radio and TV sports commentator. In 1984, he became the first African-American head coach to win a major collegiate championship, capturing the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship when Georgetown, led by Patrick Ewing, defeated the University of Houston 84–75.
After graduating from Archbishop Carroll, Thompson went to Providence College, where he played on the 1963 NIT Championship team with Ray Flynn, and was part of the first Providence NCAA tournament team in 1964. He was an All-American in his senior year of 1964. Upon graduation, Thompson was the Friars’ all-time leader in points, scoring average, and field goal percentage, and second in rebounds. Currently, Thompson is 11th on the all-time scoring list at PC, fourth in scoring average, sixth in field goal percentage, and third in rebounds.
He was drafted in the third round in 1964 and played two years in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Boston Celtics in 1964–1966. At 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m) and 270 lb (120 kg), he backed up Bill Russell, the Celtics star center, en route to two championships. Nicknamed “The Caddy” for his secondary role to Russell, he averaged 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 74 games played. He retired in 1966 to begin a much more successful career in coaching.
Before retiring as a player in 1966, Thompson was selected by the Chicago Bulls in that year’s expansion draft.
On January 8, 1999, Thompson announced his resignation as Georgetown’s head coach, citing marriage problems. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on October 1, 1999. Thompson was replaced by longtime assistant Craig Esherick, a popular player’s coach.
Esherick was fired in 2004 and replaced by John Thompson III, the old coach’s eldest son. At the time the elder Thompson was serving Georgetown in what Rev. Leo J. O’Donovan, university president, referred to as a “coach emeritus” position, assisting on academic, athletic and community projects.
His younger son, Ronny Thompson, formerly an assistant coach at Georgetown, was the head coach at Ball State.
Thompson, who had served as an assistant coach for the gold medal winning team in the 1976 Summer Olympics, coached the US team at the 1988 Summer Olympics. Although favored to win the international tournament, the United States was narrowly defeated by the Soviet Union in the semifinals 82–76, marking the first time the United States did not reach the gold medal game. The team proceeded to win its final game against Australia to secure the bronze medal.
Career highlights and awards
2× NBA champion (1965–1966)
NCAA champion (1984)
Henry Iba Award (1982)
NABC Coach of the Year (1985)
UPI Coach of the Year (1987)
3× Big East Coach of the Year (1980, 1987, 1992)