Jerry Tarkanian, the legendary, wily college basketball coach who died Wednesday at 84, started throwing bricks at the NCAA’s windows decades before it became fashionable. While fans and media cheered on the sport’s governing body for supposedly cleaning up college basketball in the ’70s and ’80s, Tarkanian called it out for the hypocrisy and opacity so many others took so many years to see. Other coaches got along with the NCAA or steered clear. Tarkanian took it to court. Twice.

Obituaries and tributes about Tarkanian are bound to include his most quotable lines. So many of those captured his defiance.

“The NCAA is so mad at Kentucky, it’s going to give Cleveland State two more years of probation,” Tarkanian said. It’s a great line, a funny line, but it underscored how the NCAA bullied smaller schools with sanctions while it let marquee (read: money-making) programs slide for the same transgressions.

Tarkanian wrote in his autobiography that he liked transfers from major programs “because they already had their cars paid for.”

The animus began as soon as Tarkanian left a hugely successful junior college career for Long Beach State. As he turned the program into a local power, he wrote guest columns in local paper, the Press-Telegram. Most of his writing shared a universal theme: Taking aim at the NCAA.

Tarkanian was not alone in his belief the NCAA made him a target, but he never stopped fighting them. When his 1990 UNLV team blew out Duke by 30 points in the national title game, Tarkanian demanded the banner read “national champions” – not “NCAA champions,” as is standard.

In 1977, the NCAA threatened greater sanctions against UNLV if it didn’t suspend Tarkanian for two years for “questionable practices.” Tarkanian sued the NCAA on the basis it had “deprived him of property and liberty without the due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

A Nevada judge prevented his suspension with an injunction, but the case eventually reached the United States Supreme Court. In a ruling that came in 1988, the court reversed the injunction and Tarkanian lost. Justice John Paul Stevens delivered the opinion.

Tarkanian would battle the NCAA in court again. And he would win.

Tarkanian left UNLV for the San Antonio Spurs in 1992, but he lasted only 20 games because of a dispute with management. The Spurs paid him $1.3 million in severance. Tarkanian suddenly had a pile of found money and nothing but time, and he used the combination pursuing his favorite pastime. He sued the NCAA, this time for damages caused by years of “harassment.” In 1998, the NCAA settled and paid Tarkanian $2.5 million.

Not all of the changes over which Tarkanian fought the NCAA have come, but the tide has shifted. His railings against the notion of amateurism seemed radical in the 70s; now they are mainstream. Tarkanian became a renegade for calling for widespread changes to the way college sports are governed; now there are legions who share his view.

The water is rising for the NCAA, and sweeping changes seem inevitable, whether they come sooner or later. The NCAA will look far different than it does today, and it must be remembered who put some of those first holes in the building’s windows.