John Thompson Rumors
John Thompson Jr.’s death in August was a significant loss for college basketball. But the legendary leader’s legacy will be highlighted with a heartwarming gesture this week. Multiple Black head coaches will wear a towel over their right shoulder during their season-opening games to honor Thompson, sources told ESPN on Sunday. Thompson’s towel is one of college basketball’s most iconic images. One head coach, who did not want to be named because he said he wanted the focus to center on Thompson’s legacy, said multiple coaches have committed to wearing the towel — with Thompson’s family’s blessing — throughout the season, not just this week.
Thompson, who died at 78, wore a white towel over his right shoulder as he led Georgetown to great heights throughout his coaching career, which included the 1984 national title and five Big East championships. He coached basketball icons, such as Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson. The idea, per sources, was discussed during offseason meetings that included “a large group of Black head coaches” in college basketball. Those on the calls wanted to find a way to acknowledge Thompson’s life in the first season since his death.
Etan Thomas: He focused on their education, enforced discipline and structure, and educated them about society and being a Black man in America. He was a father figure in that he actually cared about his players far beyond wins and losses (although he definitely wanted to win). He made sure he stressed that his players graduate and not squander their time allowing the system to use them. Of course that was the coach and program I wanted to be a part of. Also, he coached one of my favorite players, Alonzo Mourning – someone who I wanted to pattern my game after. He also coached Patrick Ewing, one of my favorite players growing up (as a New York Knicks fan). I wanted to be able to block shots like Dikembe Mutombo and have defenses literally draw plans to avoid bringing the ball inside. I wanted to carry on the tradition and wear No. 33 at Georgetown (which is one of the reasons why I wore No. 33 at Syracuse, but I’ll explain that later).
Casey sent a text message Monday to the Detroit Free Press paying his respects to Thompson. “He was a pioneer for African American Coaches,” Casey wrote. “He was one of the first coaches who fought for social justice. He fought for us as coaches. I remember when I was fighting the NCAA he stood up for me at a National Coaches meeting. Every time I would see him I would thank him! He came to numerous practices when I took my Toronto teams to Georgetown University to practice at his practice facility. He always had colorful advice. He was a man’s man!!! What you saw is what you got! We as African American coaches, all coaches are indebted to ‘Big John!’ RIP.”
Greg Monroe: 2020… man. Idk even know where to begin on this one. We lost another great man today. A great coach but even better humanitarian. I dont know anyone who loved the game of basketball more. And as much as you loved the game you loved people more. You sat in McDonough every time a ball bounced on the court willing to share your knowledge to anyone walking through there, not just hoyas. This one hurts fr. Every conversation was priceless and was always deeper than the surface and that was by design because you knew what we were up against as we were growing into men. I thank you for all of your wisdom and guidance. RIH “Don’t let the sum total of your existence be 8-10 pounds of air” a statement that has always stuck with me and you for sure lived by that. Love you Big John
The phone buzzed on Monday morning, followed by a most uncomfortable hush. No hello. No words. Only moments of silence turning into a muffled heave, and finally, a brokenhearted sob. “You had to come from Maryland and D.C. and Prince George’s County to know what Coach Thompson meant to us,” Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams finally said on the phone Monday. “I played in his gym one summer, and he cussed me out because I wasn’t doing something right, and man, it was an honor. Patrick [Ewing] and Alonzo [Mourning] were there playing pickup, and I felt for a moment like I was part of their family, because Coach didn’t talk to everyone like that. “… He looked like my granddad, and every time I saw him …”