Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Thompson Elected Into Hall of Fame

On Third Try, Longtime GU Coach Earns Enshrinement at Springfield

By Sean P. Flynn Hoya Staff Writer

After two years of waiting, former Georgetown head men’s basketball coach John Thompson was elected into the basketball Hall of Fame on June 23 for his 27 years of coaching excellence at Georgetown.

Thompson, known as much for his politics as for his coaching, will be inducted Oct. 1 at a ceremony in Springfield, ass. The 6-foot-10 Thompson, who abruptly resigned as head coach Jan. 8 due to personal reasons, will be inducted along with former Boston Celtics forward and current Minnesota Timberwolves General anager Kevin McHale; former National Basketball Association center and general manager Wayne Embry; women’s collegiate coach Billie Moore; and Fred Zollner, who owned the Fort Wayne and Detroit Pistons and is credited with such NBA innovations as the 24-second shot clock, the six-foul limit and wider foul lane.

On the court, Thompson made his mark as both a player and a coach. He played for Archbishop Carroll High School in the 1950s during the school’s 55-game winning streak. Thompson played center for Providence, which won the National Invitation Tournament during his junior year. He also played for the Boston Celtics during their championship seasons of 1965 and 1966 as backup to Hall of Famer Bill Russell.

In 1972, after six years at St. Anthony’s High School in Washington, D.C., Thompson took the helm of a floundering Georgetown basketball program that had finished its previous season with a record of 3-23. Over the next 27 years, Thompson turned Georgetown into one of the premier basketball schools in the country, amassing a record of 596-239. The Hoyas won seven Big East Championships and went to the NCAA Championship Game three times under Thompson, including winning the 1984 NCAA title. Thompson also coached the 1988 U.S. Olympic squad that took the silver medal after an upset loss against the Soviet Union.

Several of Thompson’s players have gone on to the NBA, including All-Stars Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, whom Thompson took off the streets of Washington and molded into one of his greatest players, and Dikembe Mutumbo.

But Thompson’s political stances on race and education may have been his greatest mark. In January 1989, Thompson walked off the court before a home game against Boston College to protest Proposition 42, an NCAA rule that tightened the conditions under which player’s could receive academic scholarships. His protest precipitated the eventual elimination of the rule in 1990.

As a recruiter, Thompson usually focused his attention on inner-city blacks and often drew the ire of critics who labeled him as a racist, yet under Thompson, 97 percent of Georgetown players to stay four years earned their degree.

In recent years, the Georgetown basketball dynasty has slipped. Georgetown had a number of highly publicized transfers in the last several seasons and lost its first two players to early departure for the NBA Draft when Allen Iverson left after his sophomore year in 1996 and Victor Page did the same in 1997. In Thompson’s last full season as head coach, 1997-1998, the Hoyas barely made it to a winning record and an NIT bid.

When Thompson handed the reigns to Craig Esherick on Jan. 8, the Hoyas had lost three in a row and were well on their way to a 15-16 season that ended with a first-round NIT loss against Princeton.

Thompson is the third Georgetown coach in the Hall, following Elmer Ripley, who had three separate stints at Georgetown between 1929 and 1947, and Buddy Jeannette, who coached from 1952 until 1956 at Georgetown but was elected for his service as a player.

 

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