OSU basketball: Mike Boynton paying tribute to late Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr.
STILLWATER — Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton at first wondered as a child why his father was a Georgetown fan.
As Boynton grew and got into basketball, it hit him why his dad pulled for Georgetown from Brooklyn.
John Thompson Jr.
A trailblazer for Black head coaches in college basketball, Thompson led Georgetown to the national title in 1984. He was the first Black head coach to win a title. He led the Hoyas to five Big East titles and coached icons like Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson.
Thompson, who died earlier this year at 78, did all of that while wearing a white towel over his right shoulder. It’s an iconic image.
And now Boynton is honoring Thompson while wearing a towel over his shoulder as he coaches each game this season. He debuted a new towel in Tuesday’s 83-78 win over Oral Roberts with Thompson’s image printed on it.
“Just to honor that legacy, what he’s been able to do in terms of paving the road for young people like myself is why I try to work as hard as I can, because guys like him made the sacrifice several years so that I could be here with this opportunity,” Boynton said after the game while wearing the towel in a Zoom news conference. “I don’t take it for granted.
“I hope that his family understands how much I appreciate him and what he did to give me this opportunity. We’ll do as much as we can to honor his name, his legacy and his life as we go through this season.”
Boynton and several other Black head coaches are wearing towels to honor Thompson this season, with permission from Thompson’s family.
Boynton is one of the few Black head coaches in the six major basketball conferences. Last season, those conferences had just 14 Black head coaches.
It’s an issue Thompson was not afraid to speak on throughout his life.
Now, Boynton is honoring Thompson's legacy.
“His impact on the game, I’m not even sure you can quantify it,” Boynton said. “Obviously, the first African American coach to win a national championship and really was a trendsetter and really raised the bar, changed the expectations of what black coaches can do in this profession.”
Jacob Unruh covers college sports for The Oklahoman. You can send your story ideas to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jacobunruh. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.