Ten weeks after the announcement of a Dean Smith Award, the United States Basketball Writers Association has revealed its first recipient.
Fittingly, it’s a man who was close personally and professionally to the late North Carolina coach, a legend in his own right, someone who was also considered — like Smith — to be a pioneer in college sports.
Georgetown giant John Thompson is the pick.
The USBWA sent out a release Wednesday afternoon, noting Thompson will receive his award in person “at a dinner in Chapel Hill on November 10th.”
The dinner will double as an auction, and all proceeds from the event will go toward the Dean E. Smith Opening Doors Fund, a charity that “provides financial assistance for undergraduate students from low-income families and enables professionals in education and social work to pursue advanced degrees.”
Thompson is the towering figure who was an intimidator and big-time personality during his days with the Hoyas. He won a national title in 1984 an amassed 596 career wins. His connection with Smith dates back to the 1960s, when Thompson coached St. Anthony’s High School (Washington, D.C.) and had some of his players recruited by Smith.
“There was no one in basketball I loved or respected more than Dean Smith,” Thompson told the USBWA. “There was never anyone like him.”
When Dean Smith coached the United States men’s basketball national team to a gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Thompson was by his side as an assistant.
Smith died at 83 in February after battling years of deteriorating health, including a fight with Alzheimer’s.
Thompson is now 74 and still a presence within Georgetown. His son, John Thompson III, has coached the Hoyas since 2004. Thompson continues to work as a color commentator for college basketball on radio.