John Thompson

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John Thompson named recipient of first Dean Smith Award

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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.