Ted Leonsis, Chairman and CEO of Monumental Sports and Entertainment and owner of the Wizards and Capitals, released a statement Monday to revere the Hall of Fame coach for his impact on the Washington D.C. community.
"Coach Thompson was unabashed in his protection, mentoring, and love of his players," Leonsis said. "He was a father figure -- as well as the most demanding coach -- and they all loved him for it. A pioneer where sports, culture, and the civil rights movement all coalesced. He displayed ferocious integrity and -- in a city full of great monuments -- he stood as a giant and left an indelible mark on Washington D.C., on Georgetown University, and on basketball."
Thompson became the first Black coach in NCAA history to win a national championship with Georgetown in 1984. His teams in the early-80s, led by Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing were legendary. They made it to three national championship games and helped the Big East become a powerhouse conference in the college basketball landscape.
His contributions didn't stop there either. Thompson was outspoken toward the need for racial equality in sports, pushing for more Black head coaches and referees in a game dominated by white men for years.
Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard released a statement of his own on Thompson as well, speaking on his legacy off the court.
"The loss of coach Thompson will be felt far beyond the basketball and coaching community," Sheppard said. "He was such an imposing figure on the sidelines but such a caring, inspirational leader to so many players throughout his life. I've had the privilege to coach and play with many Georgetown players throughout my career and they all embodied the character, class and commitment to community that coach Thompson instilled in that program."
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Ted Leonsis reflects on the passing of 'pioneer' John Thompson Jr. originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington