Renowned Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr., known simply as “Big John” throughout college basketball, has died at age 78.

Thompson, one of the greatest and most important coaches in college basketball history. He passed away on Monday morning at the age of 78. The circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear.

“We are heartbroken to share the news of the passing of our father, John Thompson, Jr,” the Thompson family said in a statement released by Georgetown. ” “Our father was an inspiration to many and devoted his life to developing young people not simply on, but most importantly, off the basketball court. He is revered as a historic shepherd of the sport, dedicated to the welfare of his community above all else.”

“However, for us, his greatest legacy remains as a father, grandfather, uncle, and friend. More than a coach, he was our foundation. More than a legend, he was the voice in our ear every day. We will miss him but are grounded in the assurance that we carry his faith and determination in us. We will cherish forever his strength, courage, wisdom, and boldness, as well as his unfailing love.”

“We know that he will be deeply missed by many and our family appreciates your condolences and prayers. But don’t worry about him, because as he always liked to say, ‘Big Ace is cool.'”

John Thompson was an American men’s basketball coach for the Georgetown Hoyas In 1984, he became the first African-American head coach to win a major collegiate championship with stars like Patrick Ewing, Reggie Williams, and David Wingate on his team. Thompson coached at Georgetown for 27 seasons while making the most wins in the school’s history … racking up 596 wins.

Thompson, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999 as a high school basketball coach, was a pioneer credited with opening the door for a generation of minority coaches. His national title run in 1984 was the first by a Black head coach and altered the perception of Black coaches.

Off the court, Thompson was both a role model and a lightning rod. A stickler for academics, he kept a deflated basketball on his desk, a reminder to his players that a degree was a necessity because a career in basketball relied on a tenuous “nine pounds of air.”

Recently, Thompson stepped down in May from the Nike Board of Directors, and his autobiography is set to be released in January.