Thompson was the first African-American head coach to win the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship when his Georgetown Hoyas won the title in 1984.
Thompson led the Hoyas to three Final Fours in the 1980s.
Thompson is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
He was also close friends with Dean Smith, the Hall of Fame coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Thompson was the first recipient of the Dean Smith Award which goes to a college basketball coach that embodies honesty, integrity and treating all people with courtesy and respect.
Duke University Head Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski released the following statement about Thompson's death:
A message from Coach K on the passing of legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. pic.twitter.com/Nka2T39FL0— Duke Men’s Basketball (@DukeMBB) August 31, 2020
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Head Basketball Coach Roy Williams also released a statement, saying in part, "If you played for Big John you gained a lot as a basketball player, but you gained so much more as a man. It wasn't just about basketball; it was about education and contributing to the world. I could go on and on, but he was truly a great man who just happened to be a basketball coach, and a great one at that."
According to ESPN's Myron Medcalf, Thompson was still inspiring other Black leaders as recent as two weeks ago. He reportedly had a phone call with Black college basketball coaching urging them to seize the moment.
I was told that Big John, just two weeks ago, jumped onto a phone call with Black college basketball coaches and told them to seize the moment. The legendary coach was still fighting for change at the end.— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) August 31, 2020
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At Georgetown, Thompson created one of the top basketball programs of the 1980s and 1990s, featuring the talents of Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson.