John Thompson

Florida Gators v Villanova Wildcats
Getty Images

John Thompson named recipient of first Dean Smith Award

Leave a comment

In late June the creation of the Dean Smith Award was announced by the University of North Carolina and the United States Basketball Writers Association, with the recipient being a person in college basketball who “exemplifies the spirit and values” represented by the late coach. While Smith, who passed away in February, won 879 games, two national titles and many ACC titles during his time in Chapel Hill, he was also known to take stands on important issues in society.

Wednesday it was announced that former Georgetown head coach John Thompson would be the first recipient of the award, which will be presented at a dinner in Chapel Hill November 10. Thompson won a national title and made three Final Four appearances during his tenure at Georgetown, which included multiple Big East regular season and tournament titles as well.

But Thompson’s impact, like that of his close friend Smith, was not limited to the court and the win/loss ledger. That made him a fitting choice for the first winner of this newly created award.

“You are hitting me in my soft spot,” Thompson said when informed he had been selected. “There was no one in basketball I loved or respected more than Dean Smith. There was never anyone like him.”

Thompson’s respect for Smith went way beyond wins and losses. And, it was Thompson’s record away from the court rather than his wins and losses that led to this recognition.

“We think John Thompson is the perfect choice as the first winner of the Smith award,” said USBWA President Pat Forde. “We wanted the winner to be someone Dean Smith would be proud to present the award to if he was here to do it. We think, with John, we have that and we know we have someone who Coach Smith’s family is thrilled to honor.”

The two coaching greats, who are both enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, most famously coached against each other in the 1982 national title game with a Michael Jordan jumper being the difference in a one-points North Carolina victory. Two years later Thompson would lead the Hoyas to their lone national title.

Former Georgetown head coach John Thompson Jr. jokes about Maryland series

John Thompson, Michael Jordan

In late April it was announced that Georgetown and Maryland would play as one of the matchups in the newly formed Gavitt Games, and it was a move that raised eyebrows. The programs haven’t played in seven years, so the move to have them play in consecutive seasons (Georgetown will host the game during the 2016-17 season) certainly made news.

Wednesday former Georgetown head coach John Thompson Jr., who was at the helm for the majority of a stalemate that spanned more than two decades with a game during the 1993-94 season being the lone contest being played, gave his thoughts on the resumption of the series on his radio show. According to the Washington Post, the elder Thompson made light of the situation while also noting that his son’s more willing to take on challenging non-conference games than he was.

“I was glad that they did it,” he began. “Listen, let me tell you something, you make decisions strategically based on a business. Basketball in college is semi-amateur, and we don’t want to admit that. Now, I went through what I went through with [Maryland], and everyone’s arguing about whose fault it was, and that’s fine. But in the meantime, if John [Thompson III] decides, and their coach decides, that they want to play, that’s fine with me.

“People come up to me like I’m gonna be mad that they’re gonna play,” Thompson went on. “I don’t give a damn, I’m gonna tell you that right now. And my son didn’t ask my permission to do it, you know what I mean? If you want to do it, you go ahead and do it. But give me St. Leo’s. Let’s understand that very clear.”

The meeting during the 2015-16 season will be an interesting one, especially considering the matchup of guards D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Melo Trimble. Maryland’s expected to be a national title contender, and the infrequency of games between the two despite their proximity simply adds to the buildup.

Allen Iverson, Georgetown legends return to campus for new John Thompson practice facility

John Thompson

It was a star-studded weekend at Georgetown as numerous former basketball legends returned to campus as ground broke on new The Thompson Center.

Georgetown’s new practice facility is expected to be completed in August of 2016 and the $62 millions project is going to be completed through philanthropy. That’s where many of the former Hoyas come in. Patrick Ewing and agent David Falk donated along with Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert and numerous others.

The four-story 144,000-square foot facility will be a huge boost to the Georgetown program and should keep them among the nation’s elite.

But one player returning among the group of legends meant more than the others: former guard Allen Iverson.

Although Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo — who were all present — are all former All-Stars and among the most decorated big men of an era, Iverson’s general presence is rare in the public eye. The 6-foot guard is one of the most electric guards to ever play the game and Iverson making a rare public appearance on behalf of Thompson and Georgetown means a little more than the other guys showing up because those former pros are much more involved.

Iverson spoke to Ben Standig of CSN Washington about his relationship with Thompson and Georgetown.

“(Coach Thompson) means so much to me and means so much to me besides basketball,” Iverson told, “because he saved my life.”

Standig has a great exchange between the former player and coach that perfectly illustrates their relationship:

At a gala in Thompson’s honor Friday night, Iverson told the crowd of former players, alumni and program supporters about Thompson’s initial interest. “(Coach) said it was because of my mom and not my basketball skills –but whatever,” he cracked as laughter filled the ballroom.

Thompson spoke last and as always, had the final say.

“You wouldn’t (be here) if your mom hadn’t said they’re gonna kill my son,” the coach stated with his usual from-the-top-of-the-mountain conviction. “That’s when I decided to take him.”

That’s why Allen Iverson came back to the Hilltop on Friday.

“It’s everything to be here and be a part of this,” Iverson told “(Coach Thompson) is Georgetown. You can’t mention Georgetown without mentioning his name. It’s like peanut butter and jelly. … He gave me an opportunity and a chance at life when nobody else would. I’m just glad to be here and be a part of it.”

Thompson went on to speak about Iverson when addressing a group at the event.

“I’m not coaching for four more wins,” Thompson said, as he fell four wins shy of 600 when he retired. “I don’t care about stats. I’m proud of Allen Iverson. That’s my prodigal son.”

It’s nice to see Allen Iverson in the news for something positive, and involving Georgetown and Thompson.

Two NBA stars each pledge $1 million for new Georgetown practice facility

John Thompson

Georgetown will soon break ground on a brand-new, four-story practice facility named after legendary former head coach John Thompson, and two more former Hoyas that are now in the NBA have each pledged $1 million to support the building.

After Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing and his agent, David Falk, pledged $3.3 million to the new practice facility in late August, Boston Celtics wing Jeff Green and Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert have both stepped up and donated as well.

Green donated $1 million on his 28th birthday late last week. In college, Green helped lead the Hoyas to a Final Four appearance in 2007.

“I’m very fortunate to be in a position to give back to the University and to the program that has done so much for me,” Green said in a release. “The environment created by Coach (John) Thompson III and his staff helped shape me both academically and athletically. Georgetown and Georgetown Basketball is at my core and is part of who I am.”

Hibbert made his donation on Tuesday, which comes on Thompson’s 73rd birthday. Although both Green and Hibbert played for John Thompson III, the elder Thompson still had a big impact on Georgetown basketball during their careers.

“I am deeply indebted to Georgetown University and the basketball program for all they have done for me,” Hibbert said in a release. “I put in a lot of hard work to get where I am, but I was given a tremendous amount of guidance both on and off the floor from Coach Thompson III and I wouldn’t be here without him.”

The Thompson Athletics Center will have ground break on September 12th and will cost $62 million, all of which is being raised. The practice facility will be 144,000 square feet and include practice courts, meeting rooms, coaches’ offices for the men’s and women’s basketball programs and a weight room.

Patrick Ewing, agent David Falk donate $3.3 million to Georgetown practice facility

"A Year In A New York Minute" Photo Exhibition
1 Comment

Georgetown is about to break ground on a new four-story, 144,000-square foot facility that will cost $62 million dollars and according to the Washington Post former Georgetown center Patrick Ewing and agent David Falk will donate $3.3 million towards the project.

The John Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletics Center is being built entirely on contributions and will include practice courts and men’s and women’s basketball offices and other meeting facilities. Georgetown breaks ground on the project on September 12th.

Having big-name basketball people in your past certainly helps in this sort of thing and Georgetown’s new practice facility should be a great recruiting tool for the entire athletics department. It also shows the continued influence and power of former Georgetown head coach John Thompson. Not only is the facility being named after him, but Ewing is donating money and Falk is both of their long-time agents.

Ewing wore No. 33 at Georgetown and in the NBA, which is why he is donating $3.3 million for the project. Ewing led Georgetown to the NCAA championship in 1984 and was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft the following year.

Former Georgetown coach John Thompson ‘feel[s] bad’ for Joe Paterno, calls him a ‘damn good man’

John Thompson

Sometimes the best thing to say in a situation that doesn’t directly affect oneself is “no comment.”

John Thompson, the legendary former coach of the Georgetown Hoyas, was the latest to weigh in on the Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky situation at Penn State, and he might have done himself more harm than good.

It’s a customary exercise for radio shows to feature prominent sports figures to talk about stories that they could somehow, analogously, give a perspective on. In this case, it was ESPN 980 in Washington D.C. and Thompson on Wednesday.

Taken out of context, Thompson calling Paterno a “damn good man,” and saying that Paterno “made a mistake” and Thompson “feels bad” for him makes Thompson seem like a Paterno defender, something few want to be in the face of all the evidence of Paterno’s role in the events that took place at Penn State.

Taken with some context, the situation isn’t made a whole lot better, but it now becomes clearer that, through the radio medium, as Matt Norlander of points out, the point Thompson was trying to make was lost.

Here is the bulk of the text:

“So when you’ve got a good man who’s done a hell of a lot of good, and he does something that he maybe would be sorry about, I can’t begin to define him as being a bad person, because he made a mistake or he misjudged what he should have done. Just as I won’t say that the bad person is good because he does a good thing.

“We create false gods in our lives. Joe is not a god. John [Wooden] is not a god, [Coach] K is not a god, [Vince] Lombardi is not a god. He’s a human being that has human frailties, and they make mistakes, OK? But we need gods in our lives, and we tend to attribute that only — only — to sport …

“I feel bad for Joe, because I think he was a damn good man. I think he made a mistake. Probably he would say a terrible mistake. But if Jesse James robbed a hundred thousand banks and gave a little bit of money to the poor, I’m not gonna say he’s a good man. Nor in hell am I gonna say that Joe is the worst person that ever lived because he made a mistake.

“He’s not a god. We put people in god-like positions, and then they become incarcerated by their reputations. And then when they become incarcerated by their reputations, we exploit that. We exploit that. Because we need to say that if you win so many games, if you won so many championships, you’re better than everybody else.

When talking about such an important subject with these types of wide-ranging implications that go beyond sports to teach us about public image, chains of command, and the core of human ethical behavior, if a commentary is to be made, it needs to be made precisely and in a way that does not allow for other interpretations.

That means radio may not have been the place to do it and, if the situation called for it, to use that “no comment” card if necessary.

The tide of public opinion has turned and the case for defending the actions of the administration at Penn State not to protect children affected by Jerry Sandusky is nearly impossible to make. To say you “feel bad” for a man who played a role in not stopping the events that took place at Penn State disregards the emotions of those truly hurt and deserving of comfort in this: Sandusky’s victims.

At its very root, it feels like Thompson is trying to make a point about the ills of such worship of idols as we saw at Penn State, but small clips that hint at an attempt to defend him will ultimately be what is remembered from his interview.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_