John Thompson Jr.'s death in August was a significant loss for college basketball. But the legendary leader's legacy will be highlighted with a heartwarming gesture this week.
Multiple Black head coaches will wear a towel over their right shoulder during their season-opening games to honor Thompson, sources told ESPN on Sunday.
Thompson's towel is one of college basketball's most iconic images. One head coach, who did not want to be named because he said he wanted the focus to center on Thompson's legacy, said multiple coaches have committed to wearing the towel -- with Thompson's family's blessing -- throughout the season, not just this week.
Thompson, who died at 78, wore a white towel over his right shoulder as he led Georgetown to great heights throughout his coaching career, which included the 1984 national title and five Big East championships. He coached basketball icons, such as Patrick Ewing and Allen Iverson.
The idea, per sources, was discussed during offseason meetings that included "a large group of Black head coaches" in college basketball. Those on the calls wanted to find a way to acknowledge Thompson's life in the first season since his death.
Thompson is regarded as a critical trailblazer for Black coaches. He was not afraid to speak his mind about issues involving race and its impact on the number of Black head coaches in college basketball.
"We've talked about the ways to honor him and his legacy," said one head coach who participated in the calls. "I'll have [a towel] every game."
In Thompson's forthcoming memoir, "I Came As a Shadow," written by The Undefeated's Jesse Washington, Thompson discussed the origins of the towel.
"My mother used to wear a towel hanging over one shoulder when she worked in the kitchen," Thompson says in the book, available Dec. 15. "She'd use it to wipe her hands or dry a dish. When I started coaching at St. Anthony's [High School], I draped a white towel over my shoulder during games as a tribute to her. She and my father didn't come to hardly any of the games, but I felt them with me when I wore that towel."
The Undefeated's Jesse Washington contributed to this story.