At 6 feet 5 inches tall, NYU’s former assistant women’s basketball coach Levester “LT” Thompson Jr. was usually the tallest person in the room. His bright personality, though, might’ve been even more noticeable than his height.
“He was sometimes the funniest person,” long-time colleague and friend Janice Quinn recalled. “Quiet in a lot of ways, but he always kind of had that last word that was the funniest.”
Thompson Jr., 46, died from COVID-19 earlier this week on April 7. His memorial, held remotely over Zoom, took place on Friday, April 10, with hundreds of mourners calling in to listen.
“I think if it had been a live funeral, I think he would have had another 500 people,” Quinn said. “That just kind of speaks to the love that emanated from him.”
Thompson Jr.’s career at NYU started in 1996, when he was a senior at NYU Stern School of Business. He caught Quinn, who was the women’s basketball coach at the time, in an elevator and pitched himself as a volunteer coach for the team. That was the year NYU won the national championship. That was also the year Thompson Jr. got married.
Now the Senior Associate Director of NYU Athletics, Quinn said that one of the thousands of memories she treasures of Thompson Jr. is when she found out about his marriage to his wife, Simone. After talking his way onto the coaching staff, Thompson Jr. called Quinn to tell her he would be late to practice after winter break.
“You don’t do that,” Quinn said. “You don’t call Coach Quinn up to say ‘I’m going to be late. I’m not coming back to practice on time.’”
Yet, he did. His excuse when he finally arrived to practice:
“‘I had to go get married,’” Quinn remembers him saying. “He said, ‘When you meet a woman like Simone, if she’s willing to marry you, you have to stop what you’re doing, and you need to marry her right that minute. You can’t let a woman like that get away.’”
Thompson Jr. would help coach the women’s basketball team for the next 16 years, where he and the rest of the athletic staff proved that a school like NYU could, in the words of Quinn, “take the best of the best of the best academically, and beat the best of the best of the best athletically.”
In 2013, Thompson Jr. took a job as an equipment manager at Hunter College before returning to NYU in 2015. He was promoted to Equipment & Retail Sales Manager for the athletics department in 2017.
During his years at NYU, Thompson Jr. gained a reputation across the athletic department for being as caring as he was tall.
“I miss his smile,” Athletic Director Christopher Bledsoe wrote in an email to WSN. “Levester’s smile is unforgettable and continues to light every room he is remembered in. A man with his physical presence could have been intimidating to students, athletes or co-workers. But LT’s easy smile quickly gave you to know you were in safe hands.” (sic)
Though Quinn sees a tendency towards speaking of someone who’s recently passed in mythical proportions, this inclination doesn’t apply when discussing Thompson Jr.
“You can’t use any hyperbole that would be exaggerated for LT in terms of the good and decent man that he was,” Quinn said.
Equipment Room & Retail Sales Assistant Mark Weatherup wrote to WSN that Thompson Jr. wanted to be sure that everyone in his department, from coaches to anyone who walked into the gym, was taken care of.
“I hope that you are able to capture even a small piece of the jovial, kind-hearted, generous giant of a man we all lost this week,” Weatherup wrote.
Thompson Jr. is survived by his wife Simone and his two children, Jade-Anastasia and Chase.
A version of this article appears in the Monday, April 13, 2020, e-print edition. Email Paul Kim at [email protected]