Nobody knew it at the time, but college basketball needed John Thompson more than John Thompson needed college basketball. He could have remained in the high-school coaching ranks in Washington, D.C., winning games and influencing lives, but the college game needed someone strong enough to sledgehammer the status quo into rubble.

Thompson was that man, 6′ 10″ and full of fierce conviction. He was a towering, glowering force of change.

News of his death at age 78 circulated Monday morning, and his passing reinforces both Thompson’s pioneering impact at Georgetown and the void of fearless leadership that currently exists among college coaches. He was first, biggest and best in so many ways. If you’re crafting the Mount Rushmore of college basketball coaches, he’s one of four faces on it. Non-negotiable.