People Who Make a Difference: John Thompson

August 23, 2013

thompson_head12I met John Thompson (JT) while attending UNCG. John played basketball, I played soccer, we lived in the same dorm, and socialized with the same friends. It was then that I first noticed the qualities that defined him. I’ve respected John Thompson ever since.  

Originally from Durham, NC, Thompson played collegiately at St. Andrews and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Thompson became captain of his team as a senior and graduated from UNCG in 1984 with a degree in communications. After graduation, he was invited to try out with the Florida Suncoast Stingers of the Continental Basketball Association (CBA).

John has a proven track record as a leader and coach within the college ranks. The 2013-2014 season marks 19 years for John Thompson as head coach for the North Carolina Wesleyan men’s basketball program as well as serving as the Battling Bishops’ Director of Athletics since 1998. Widely respected among his coaching peers, Thompson is considered to be a true teacher of the game of basketball… and of life.

Thompson is the all-time winningest coach in Wesleyan men’s basketball history with five regular season and/or tournament championships during his tenure. His first conference title came during the 1999-2000 season when he led the Battling Bishops to the USA South Regular Season Championship, which earned him the first of three Coach of the Year awards. He went on to capture his first USA South Tournament Championship in 2002 and advance to the NCAA Tournament.

In 2009-2010, the veteran coach led Wesleyan to an 11-1 mark in league play en route to the program’s sixth Regular Season Championship. For his efforts, he was named the USA South’s Coach of the Year for a second time, following it up with his third Coach of the Year nod after leading the Bishops to a second straight league title in 2010-2011. Wesleyan also went on to win the program’s fourth USA South Tournament crown that season before advancing to the NCAA Tournament. 

Most recently in the summer of 2012, Thompson was selected to be a court coach for USA Basketball’s Junior National Team. Thompson joined an elite group of collegiate coaches at the U18 training camp, which was held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC) in Colorado Springs, CO.

“I am very honored to have been selected to work with USA Basketball,” said Thompson. “To assist Coach Billy Donovan and the other coaches, and then to see the team ultimately win the FIBA Americas Gold Medal, was truly humbling. The team represented our country well!”

John Thompson wears many hats at Wesleyan and in the community. In addition to serving as Vice President and Director of Athletics, as well as head basketball coach, he held the position of President of the USA South from 2001-2005 and has been chairman of the USA South Basketball Coaches Committee. Additionally, he has served on the NABC Legislation Committee and the NABC Congress. From 2007 to 2011, he served a four-year appointment to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee.

Thompson has also assisted the Advisory Board of the Wesleyan Internship and Career Center and has served on the Staff Council, the Institutional Effectiveness Committee, the Matriculation Committee, the Homecoming Committee, the Enrollment Management Committee, the SACS Self-Study Education Sub-Committee, the 50th Anniversary Committee, and as a College 101 professor. Recently, he has been appointed to the College’s First Year Experience Committee and the Campus Security Committee, while also coordinating the annual Shelton Leadership Challenge, a summer program named for General Hugh Shelton, former Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Thompson places a strong emphasis on player development both on the court and in the classroom. His practices are carefully designed lesson plans that promote hard work, perseverance, and self-discipline. In an effort to see his players succeed, he strives daily to promote this message.

“We work very hard at player development,” says Thompson. “This consists not only of basketball skills and related education, but classroom, community, and character development as well.”

His work ethic and enthusiasm for the game serve as the foundation for the North Carolina Wesleyan program. An intense competitor, it is Thompson’s goal to develop a consistently successful program that is built around good people… people that personify effort, determination, and passion. By bringing out these qualities in Bishop athletes, Thompson is able to create fundamentally sound players that compete at both ends of the court.

Adds Thompson, “Passion, work ethic, persistence, and loyalty are key ingredients that we look for in recruiting and that we try to instill here in our program. We believe these attributes and values set the tone as we strive for excellence.”

Thompson and his wife, Laura, live in Rocky Mount. They have three sons: Andrew and twins Jackson and Walker.

John has also gained notoriety as an excellent speaker. He has spoken at North Carolina Basketball Coaches Association and Florida Athletic Coaches Association clinics, among others.

Contact John to have him speak at your event: jthompson@ncwc.edu

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