Manning: John Thompson Cared About His Players As People, Not Just Athletes

By CBS Sports Radio

Basketball aficionados may not have known this – or perhaps they forgot – but Danny Manning played for John Thompson. 

No, Manning did not play for Georgetown – he played for Kansas and led the Jayhawks to a national title in 1988 – but he did play for Thompson at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, and won a bronze medal in the process.

“It was a tremendous honor to play for Coach Thompson, without question,” Manning said on The DA Show. “I learned a lot in the short time that we were together. Coach Thompson always threw out nuggets of life, about different things that he had gone through, experienced, or how he tried to prepare his players at Georgetown for things that are coming ahead. For me, it was something that I just tried to take in and enjoy every moment of it.”

Thompson, the first Black basketball coach to win an NCAA national championship, died Sunday at the age of 78. He coached Georgetown for 27 years, leading the Hoyas to a national title in 1984. He went 596-239 in his career, reached three Final Fours (1982, 1984, 1985), won seven Big East tournament championships, and was a three-time national Coach of the Year.

Yet, former players like Allen Iverson and Alonzo Mourning talk about how Thompson saved their life.

“I think a lot of those players that played for Coach Thompson at Georgetown, when they started talking about Coach Thompson’s passing, they didn’t talk about basketball; they talked about life,” Manning said. “They talked about the impact that he had on them away from the court, the impact that he had on them in helping prepare them for their future. When you start talking about someone the stature of Coach Thompson and what he’s meant to so many people – and what he’s done for so many people – basketball doesn’t pop up at the top of his list. 

“It’s the type of person that he was,” Manning continued, “the man that he wanted you to be when he was coaching you, and the person that he wanted you to be – which is the best person you could possibly be. But be prepared for all of life’s twists and turns that it throws at you.”