The college basketball world was shaken today with the passing of legendary Georgetown head coach John Thompson. Among those mourning the coaching legend is Thompson’s former Big East opponent, Rick Pitino.
Taking to Twitter on Monday, Pitino offered condolences to “Big John.” He praised Thompson for building up the Georgetown program and said as the father of several Hoyas that “he will be greatly missed by the whole Pitino family.”
“RIP Big John,” Pitino wrote. “He gave so much to his players and Georgetown. His program defined hard work, perseverance, and loyalty. As the proud father of several Hoyas, he will be greatly missed by the whole Pitino family.”
Pitino and Thompson first faced off as head coaches in 1986 during Pitino’s first year as head coach of Providence. But Thompson and the Hoyas, one year removed from a national title game appearance, swept Pitino’s Friars that year.
RIP Big John. He gave so much to his players and Georgetown. His program defined hard work, perseverance, and loyalty. As the proud father of several Hoyas, he will be greatly missed by the whole Pitino family.
— Rick Pitino (@RealPitino) August 31, 2020
The following year, Rick Pitino and John Thompson would clash again four times. They split the 1986-1987 regular season meetings, before facing off again in the 1987 Big East Tournament. Thompson’s Hoyas dominated Pitino’s Friars in the Tournament Semifinal, but would face off one more time.
At the 1987 NCAA Tournament, fresh off an upset of No. 2 Alabama in the Sweet 16, Pitino’s No. 6-seeded Friars faced the No. 1-seeded Hoyas in the Elite Eight. Pitino’s team won that game 88-73, sending the Friars to the Final Four for the second time in school history.
It would prove to be the last time the two faced off on the basketball court.
Our hearts go out to Coach Johnson Thompson’s family and loved ones.