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Remembering legendary NCAA basketball coach John Thompson

John Thompson, a Hall of Fame basketball coach who transformed Georgetown University into a national championship school, has died at age 78. The first Black head coach to win an NCAA title, Thompson was known for helping to mold stars including Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson. He was also outspoken about the role of race in sports and society. Jeffrey Brown reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Hall of Fame basketball coach John Thompson has died. He made Georgetown University a national champion and was outspoken about matters of race.

    Jeffrey Brown looks at his life.

  • Man:

    Georgetown will finish the year.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    John Thompson Jr. made history that day in 1984, becoming the first Black head coach to win an NCAA title. He was known for transforming Georgetown into a powerhouse and molding basketball greats like Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson both on and off the court.

  • Allen Iverson:

    Coach Thompson saved my life. No other schools were recruiting me anymore. My mom went to Georgetown and begged him to give me a chance. And he did.


  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Thompson saw his own role as going beyond basketball.

  • John Thompson:

    I could use it to open a doorway for myself or for other people. It was an educational instrument for me.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Thompson made a point of recruiting Black athletes to the predominantly white campus, and spoke out about injustices he saw. In 1989, he famously walked off the court before a game to protest an NCAA scholarship rule he felt would hurt disadvantaged students.

  • John Thompson:

    Because of the success we were having as a basketball coach, and me being an African American, I had an obligation to say something about it. So, I did.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    The NCAA ultimately modified the rule. John Thompson coached at Georgetown for 27 seasons and won almost 600 games. He was 78.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Jeffrey Brown.

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