The 2018-2019 season marks the 24th at the helm of the North Carolina Wesleyan men’s basketball program for head coach John Thompson, who also served as the Battling Bishops' Director of Athletics from 1998 to 2018. A 2017 N.C. Wesleyan Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, Thompson is considered to be a true teacher of the game of basketball… and of life.
Widely respected among his coaching peers, 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 skils 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 is the all-time winningest coach in Wesleyan men's basketball history, having compiled a 344-264 record and seven 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 the USA South Regular Season Championship, which earned him the first of four 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. The 21 wins were the most of his career and the highest for the program since the 1986-1987 season.
The 2015-2016 season saw Thompson garner his fourth USA South Coach of the Year honor after guiding NCWC to a 12-2 mark in conference action. His Bishops finished with a 20-7 overall record, securing the program's eighth 20-win season and the fourth of his tenure. Most recently, the 2017-2018 season featured a USA South East Division Championship for the Bishops, who posted a 13-3 league mark.
One of Thompson's most noteworthy coaching achievements came in the summer of 2012 when he 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. Thompson continues to work with USA Basketball via various camps and clinics.
In addition to his coaching duties, Thompson also served as Vice President and Director of Athletics for 20 years. His leadership saw him guide Wesleyan's athletics staff to two USA South Men's Presidents Cups, over 50 USA South regular season and/or tournament titles, 30 NCAA tournament berths, and numerous All-American, All-Region, and All-Conference accolades. In this time, Wesleyan's baseball team captured the 1999 National Championship, while other team accomplishments include an Elite-8 appearance for men's tennis in 2010 and a pair of Sweet-16 showings for men's soccer. Other highlights of Thompson's tutelage include the official namings of Scalf and Edge Fields, presiding over the expansion of Everett Gym to the include the Taylor Center, and overseeing the addition of football and women's lacrosse, which prompted the opening of the Vernon T. Bradley, Jr. Fieldhouse.
Thompson wears many other hats at Wesleyan and in the community. He held the position of President of the USA South from 2001-2005 and presently serves as chairman of the USA South Basketball Coaches Committee, a position he has held since 1999. Currently a member of the NABC Congress, Coach Thompson also served a four-year appointment to the NCAA Men's Basketball Rules Committee from 2007 to 2011.
On campus, Thompson has assisted a variety of committees over the past 22 years and was instrumental in coordinating the First Annual Shelton Leadership Challenge on campus, a highly-competitive event named for General Hugh Shelton, former Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Coach Thompson also created and implemented WAAL (Wesleyan Academy of Athletic Leadership), a program designed to aid Bishop student-athletes in the development leadership skills. For the past seven years, he has been given oversight of all campus leadership programming.
Prior to arriving at Wesleyan, Thompson worked as an assistant at St. Andrews Presbyterian College, St. Lawrence University, and Guilford College. While at St. Lawrence, the Saints won the ICAC Championship, and his 1988-1989 Guilford squad won the NAIA District 26 Championship and advanced to the National Tournament.
Originally from Durham, North Carolina, Thompson played collegiately at St. Andrews and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The captain of his team as a senior, Thompson 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).
Thompson and his wife, Laura, live in Rocky Mount. They have three sons: Andrew and twins Jackson and Walker.