They came through Georgetown one after another — Patrick Ewing and all the rest. Teenagers who became adults, prospects who became men.  They came to grow, not to mention win a lot of basketball games, and then to be sent into the world by a mountain of a mentor named John Thompson.

He spoke, they listened. That’s what the Hoya program was all about in the late 20th century.

Ask a good many of those Georgetowners today if they can imagine their lives without Thompson, and the guess is, it can’t be done. They learned so many things from the imposing figure before them — from A to Z, with B and basketball happening to come in between. The term student-athlete is out of favor with some in these turbulent days, but consider this:

We note his history today, and how he became the first Black coach to win a national championship in 1984. We note his feats at Georgetown, and how he took a program that had been barely a blip on any radar screen and transformed it into a national power to be feared in lots of places, and respected most everywhere. In the first 36 years of the NCAA tournament, Georgetown attended once. The Hoyas of Thompson were in 20 of the next 23. A school that owned two tournament victories in 36 seasons suddenly advanced to seven Elite Eights, or better.

But to get a fuller sense of Thompson, you need to count all the uns.

Uncompromising, unafraid, unflinching, unblinking, unapologetic…and on many nights, very nearly unbeatable. He and that towel. Thompson understood what the world beyond the basketball court should be, and he knew what the Georgetown program would be, and he was never going to back down from saying what he meant and meaning what he said — about either. No matter if his audience was the media, the power structure of college sports, his team — or famously, the time he told a notorious drug dealer to stop hanging around his Hoyas.

Maybe not everyone agreed with him. But everyone heard him.