John Thompson Jr., the Hall of Fame basketball coach who led Georgetown University to national collegiate prominence and became the first African-American coach to take a team to the N.C.A.A. basketball championship, died on Sunday. He was 78.
Thompson, who starred for Providence College before backing up Bill Russell at center on two Boston Celtic N.B.A. championship teams, was an imposing figure on the sideline, his trademark white towel wrapped around his shoulders, in his 27 seasons at Georgetown.
Coaching the Hoyas to 20 appearances in the N.C.A.A. tournament, Thompson built teams around the centers Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning and the guard Allen Iverson. Thompson’s Hoyas won the 1984 N.C.A.A. championship with an 84-75 victory over Houston.
Thompson’s Georgetown teams won 596 games and lost 239. They captured seven Big East titles. Thompson also coached the United States 1988 Olympic team to a bronze medal.
His oldest son, John Thompson III, coached at Georgetown for 13 seasons.