Pistons’ Dwane Casey remembers when John Thompson fought for his coaching career

Detroit Free Press

Legendary Georgetown head coach John Thompson died Monday at the age of 78. 

The Hall-of-Fame college basketball coach led the Hoyas to a national championship in 1984, three Final Fours and seven Big East titles, as well as the 1988 United States Olympic national team to a bronze medal.

He became the first Black coach to win a championship in college basketball history and was a role model and inspiration for many Black Americans. 

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Thompson had an influence Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey — and on one occasion, fought for him.

In March of 1989, Casey, who was then an assistant coach for Kentucky, resigned from his position and was placed on a five-year probation by the NCAA after it was believed that Casey sent money to a player during recruitment. The probation was later rescinded after Casey’s innocence was proved. 

Thompson was among the people who stood up for Casey that same year, during a Black Coaches Association meeting in Dallas, while Casey was fighting the NCAA for his reinstatement. It’s something Casey says he was always grateful for. The gesture sparked a lifelong relationship between the two men. 

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Casey sent a text message Monday to the Detroit Free Press paying his respects to Thompson.

“He was a pioneer for African American Coaches,” Casey wrote. “He was one of the first coaches who fought for social justice. He fought for us as coaches. I remember when I was fighting the NCAA he stood up for me at a National Coaches meeting. Every time I would see him I would thank him!

He came to numerous practices when I took my Toronto teams to Georgetown University to practice at his practice facility. He always had colorful advice. He was a man’s man!!! What you saw is what you got! We as African American coaches, all coaches are indebted to ‘Big John!’ RIP.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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