Regular readers of our college admissions blog know why we write about college basketball from time to time. As a general rule of thumb, the further a team advances in March Madness, the more applications the school tends to receive the subsequent admissions cycle. And so we would be remiss not to acknowledge some college basketball coaches who have had an outsized influence on their institution’s admissions process and, ultimately, the institution’s prestige. Among the current basketball coaches at our nation’s highly selective universities, it’s Duke University’s Mike Krzyzewski who comes to immediate mind. Coach K’s success on the basketball court has been instrumental through the years in helping shape Duke into one of our nation’s preeminent institutions.
But before Coach K paced the sidelines at Duke, there was another college basketball coach — this one at Georgetown University — who would prove an important figure in molding the reputation of the oldest Catholic and Jesuit higher education institution in America: John Thompson Jr. Thompson, who died today, was the first African American coach to win a major collegiate national title in basketball when he led the Hoyas to the 1984 championship. He was known not only as one of our nation’s top basketball minds but as a shaper of young men — from future NBA stars Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo to Alonzo Mourning and Allen Iverson.
Mutombo, one of our world’s great humanitarians, said of Thompson, “He was my mentor, great teacher, hero and a father figure to so many [sic] us who got the chance to play for him…Under coach Thompson, I learned a lot about the game of basketball, but most importantly, I learned how to be a man in society.” We know that Georgetown University is grateful for Thompson’s legacy.
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