Remembering Coach Thompson and His Legacy Through the Eyes of His Faithful Friends


His devotion to the Blessed Mother and the plight of the marginalized are what two clergy members from the Archdiocese…

Posted by Currents News on Thursday, September 10, 2020


WINDSOR TERRACE — The late John Thompson Jr. will be remembered by many as a giant presence on and off the court. Before he became the iconic, beloved Georgetown coach who towered on the sidelines with a white towel tossed across his shoulders, he was part of a powerhouse team at Archbishop Carroll H.S. in Washington D.C.

In 1951, during a time when segregation was a harsh reality in the country, Archbishop Carroll H.S. opened up as the first integrated high school in the nation’s capital, three years before the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education that segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional.

The school’s opening “triggered long-term relationships between men like Father John Mudd and John Thompson, who otherwise probably never would have crossed paths, especially as teenagers,” said Mark Savercool, Archbishop Carroll H.S.’s vice president for advancement.

Father John Mudd attended Archbishop Carroll H.S. and remembers Thompson as his classmate and as a rising basketball star in the late 1950s.

In a 1960 Washington Star article, sports writer Bob Hanson recapped Archbishop Carroll’s K. of C. tournament victory: “A turn away crowd of 4,000 was left limp yesterday at Georgetown’s McDonough gym as Carroll nipped St. Catherine’s of Racine, WI, 57-55, on a do-or-die jump shot by George Leftwich in the last three seconds.” (Photo courtesy: Archbishop Carroll H.S.)

“It was probably the best basketball high school team in the metropolitan Washington area,” Father Mudd said. “Probably one of the best in the country.”

Thompson and his Archbishop Carroll teammates racked up tournament titles in the Washington Catholic League and the Eastern States Catholic Invitational, and Knights of Columbus National Championship.

Fathers Mudd and Kemp both said that combining the values of the Catholic faith with education was something that both Thompson’s mother and aunt advocated for, with hopes it would impact his life and career. But Thompson added to that his devotion to the Blessed Mother, who arguably became his spiritual cheerleader, according to Father Raymond Kemp, a family friend and adjunct professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown. Father Kemp presided over Thompson’s funeral Mass at St. Augustine Church in Washington. 

“When the Thompson Athletic Center was built on the campus of Georgetown University — dedicated a couple of years of ago — he had one requirement: It had to have a statue of the Blessed Mother,” Father Kemp explained.

More than just a coach, Thompson was seen as a father figure and mentor to many of his players, including NBA stars Allen Iverson, Patrick Ewing, and Dikembe Mutombo. His impact is also remembered at Archbishop Carroll.

“We inducted him into the Hall of Honor, which are people who have supported the mission of Carroll,” Father Mudd said. “I know that he was very grateful for his education and for the people who helped him.”

He really believed in the works of Jesus, the work of the Blessed Mother, and he knew he was doing God’s work,” added Father Kemp. “John would tell you he was no saint. But he really helped Georgetown and gave us the guts we needed to begin the process of telling the truth and reaching reconciliation on the hard treatment of black folks.”

[Related: Late John Thompson Remembered as Loyal Hoops Guru]

2 thoughts on “Remembering Coach Thompson and His Legacy Through the Eyes of His Faithful Friends

  1. It’s good to read something positive these days. Great tribute to a great man who remained faithful in his faith in fulfilling his vocation as an athlete and coach. We need mentors like him in this day and age. Rest In Peace brother.

  2. Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle came to this southern city in 1948. He was a determined proponent of racial justice. Carroll H S, which opened in 1951, was a work very dear to his heart. He entrusted the work to the Augustinians and particularly to the founding rector, Father Edward Stanford, OSA, a former president of Villanova University, By 1956 thirty-six Augustinians were serving on the Carroll faculty.