Legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. passed away at the age of 78, his family announced today. The first black head coach to win a college basketball national championship in 1984 and the man who helped Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Allen Iverson launch their careers into superstardom in college, Thompson is commonly known for his greatness as a basketball coach. Today, however, we learned he was also an important mentor to many who never played basketball, including long-time ESPN personality Michael Wilbon.
Wilbon appeared on First Take to discuss the impact Thompson made on his life dating back to the early 80s when Wilbon was covering Georgetown for the Washington Post. It was a moving segment and showcases the depth Thompson had as a person and the reach he extended well beyond any court.
When you say someone was as positively impactful on your life as your father and uncles, the men who raised you, there really can be no higher praise. A confidant, mentor and soundingboard, it sounds like Thompson played an integral role in both Wilbon's professional and personal development. It's also devastating to imagine the last phone call they had where Thompson was running out of breath and Wilbon was destressed imaging the inevitable outcome that manifested soon after.
Thompson will go down in the history books for his accomplishments as a coach. That is appropriate given the success he had and the barriers he broke down. However, to those who knew him, whether player or not, his role in helping shape their lives was clearly bigger than any record or trophy. He was a father figure to thousands and, like Wilbon, those people will advance his legacy as a coach and person now that he has passed.