Coach John Thompson, who led the Georgetown University Hoyas basketball team to victory at the 1984 national championship, has died at age 78.
Thompson, who was the first black coach to win the title, is credited with boosting minority representation in college basketball during the 1980s.
He recruited over 20 players who went on to join the NBA, and four who – like him – are in the sport’s Hall of Fame.
Thompson was also known for protesting against racial injustice as a coach.
Known to fans and players as Big John, Thompson was raised in Washington DC and played professionally for the Boston Celtics when the team won the championship in 1965 and 1966.
He was hired in 1972 to coach Georgetown University, a predominantly white Jesuit university in Washington DC.
His appointment led to controversy. University faculty and fans rallied around him after he was met with racial abuse.
He coached Georgetown for 27 seasons, and in 1988 led the US Olympic basketball team to win a bronze medal.
In 1989 he walked off the court in protest of a league rule that he said was biased against under-privileged students.
Former Philadelphia 76er and Hall of Famer Allen Iverson was among those paying tribute online, thanking the coach for “saving my life”.