Tough Week for Basketball as Coaches Thompson, Olson Pass Away
It’s been a week of great hardships in the NBA.
The basketball world has already been living on pins and needles in light of the mass racial unrest in America. Last week, the shooting of Jacob Blake reminded everyone how much work remains to be done and how the fight to end racism is one that will be ongoing.
Then, over the past week, the game received devastating news as two legendary college coaches, John Thompson and Lute Olson have sadly passed away.
A few days ago, Olson passed away at the age of 85. The former head coach of the Arizona Wildcats led the school to a national championship in 1997 along with four other Final Four appearances. He has also coached many of the game’s best Wildcat alums including Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson, and Channing Frye.
“Since I arrived in Tucson almost 12 years ago, I have been asked hundreds of times, ‘What made Coach Olson so successful?'” Arizona coach Sean Miller said in a statement following the the loss of Olson. “Having asked his former players, coaches and people in our community the same question, I came to a final conclusion: He had no weaknesses as a coach. He was a tremendous teacher of the game. He was a relentless recruiter. He was an astute evaluator of talent. He was a fierce and confident leader. He was more than a coach to all of his players. To this day, there is a connection and closeness between generations of Arizona players that will last forever.”
Olson won 781 games in his head coaching career, 14th most on the NCAA D1 all-time list.
In his Hall of Fame speech, Allen Iverson thanked Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. for saving his life. pic.twitter.com/DE1xospWIZ
— ESPN (@espn) August 31, 2020
Today, the basketball world also lost Coach Thompson.
A two-time NBA champion as a player with the Boston Celtics, the Hall of Famer Thompson spent 27 years coaching at Georgetown, winning a national championship with the school along the way. In his time at the school, he’s coached the likes of Allen Iverson, Patrick Ewing, and Alonzo Mourning – all three of whom are hall of famers as well.
“We are heartbroken to share the news of the passing of our father, John Thompson, Jr,” the Thompson family said in a statement released by Georgetown. “Our father was an inspiration to many and devoted his life to developing young people not simply on, but most importantly, off the basketball court. He is revered as a historic shepherd of the sport, dedicated to the welfare of his community above all else.
“However, for us, his greatest legacy remains as a father, grandfather, uncle, and friend. More than a coach, he was our foundation. More than a legend, he was the voice in our ear everyday. We will miss him but are grounded in the assurance that we carry his faith and determination in us. We will cherish forever his strength, courage, wisdom and boldness, as well as his unfailing love.
“We know that he will be deeply missed by many and our family appreciates your condolences and prayers. But don’t worry about him, because as he always liked to say, ‘Big Ace is cool.'”
Thompson was 78.