Next up in our Pulitzer-prize winning series of profiles concerning the head coaching candidates for the Georgetown Hoyas is Patrick Aloysius Ewing, first of his name.
Ewing’s credentials for the position are well-known and numerous. He is the greatest player in Georgetown basketball history and the best player on a Hoya team that won the program’s only national championship and made three national finals. He is a two-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame and an 11-time NBA All-Star. He has won multiple Oscars (in my mind anyway) for his roles in Space Jam in a Snickers commercial as Patrick Chewing. He has many more honors and accomplishments from his playing days that I could spend paragraphs listing, but suffice it to say that he’s got the goods in that department.
Since his retirement, Ewing has spent 15 years as an assistant coach at the NBA level. Ewing began working for Jeff Van Gundy, one of his coaches from Ewing’s Knicks days. Ewing then moved onto JVG’s brother Stan, who at the time was coaching the Orlando Magic, which made a run to the 2009 NBA Finals under their guidance. Most recently, Ewing moved on to Van Gundy disciple Steve Clifford, coach of the Charlotte Hornets (ne Bobcats), for which big Pat is now the associate head coach. Ewing has been a finalist for many NBA head coaching jobs, a position that remains his ambition.
Given Ewing’s lack of head coaching experience and lack of coaching experience at the college level, an evaluation of his pluses and minuses is a bit speculative. Let’s start with the downside. As mentioned, Ewing has no experience at the college level, no experience grinding on the recruiting trail, no experience telling teenagers that they’re the greatest thing since Allen Iverson. We don’t know much about his offensive or defensive philosophy, and whether he would be interested in or capable of implementing a more modern system on either end of the floor than his predecessor.
Next, there’s the relationship issue. Ewing remains close with the Thompsons, perhaps the closest of any of the glory-era Hoyas to Pops himself. Having just extricated itself from an incredibly complicated relationship with its head coach, does Georgetown really want to hire someone who, if he didn’t work out, would prove similarly complicated? Will he staff his son, most recently on JT3’s staff, on his staff as well? Will there be other Hoya loyalists on such a staff, or would hires be meritocratic?
Ewing also isn’t exactly the ideal face of a program that should be trying to project youth, energy, speed. As Big Man U tries to actually start recruiting some playmaking guards, is a 7-footer really the best messenger? And he’ll be 55 by the time next season starts, not exactly young for a first-time college head coach trying to recruit and relate to a bunch of kids.
That said, Ewing has many strengths as a candidate, as well. First of all, he’s Patrick Fricking Ewing, one of college basketball’s icons and either first or second on any list of players most associated with Georgetown, even among youngsters. Beyond Georgetown are his various credentials, both from playing and coaching. Second, his coaching experience would translate to the college level in a couple of ways. The Van Gundys and Clifford are all talented defensive coaches who get effort and results out of their players. Ewing likely would, too. SVG in particular had this to say about Ewing:
``Look, he’s a guy who spent a lot of time really working at it,’’ said Van Gundy, who worked with Ewing when the Magic reached the 2009 NBA Finals and the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals. ``Didn’t want to just be a big-man guy or sort of the NBA guy who is just trying to get into the heads of guys. He wanted to do all the X-and-O stuff, all the game plan and game prep stuff and teach on the court. He can coach guards as well as bigs and he’s not limited. He’s a guy who has worked hard to become a good basketball coach, period, and he is that.”
In addition to touting Ewing’s tactical credentials, Van Gundy also makes clear that Ewing is a grinder, someone who’s not going to be outworked. Sure, hitting the recruiting trail week after week can be tiring, but so is hitting four cities in five nights on an NBA road trip. Being an NBA assistant coach for 15 years takes hard work and grit that Ewing undoubtedly would bring to the Georgetown head coaching position.
My ultimate assessment is that if Ewing is interested in the job, he should be strongly considered. Those conducting the search, Lee Reed and Paul Tagliabue, should ask themselves questions about what they’re looking for in a head coach, and whether Ewing fits that bill. He shouldn’t be just given the job because of his ties to Pops or his legacy as a player. Ewing should get the job, or not, on his merits. But any other program conducting a coaching search would give a close look to one of its own who had Ewing’s credentials. Georgetown should do the same.
Desirability rating: 7 out of 10
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