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The Return of the King: Patrick Ewing Comes Home to Georgetown

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Perhaps this was always the compromise we were going to make, but let’s stop short of calling it desperate. Patrick Ewing can stand on his own like he always has when he is officially announced as the new head coach at Georgetown. The greatest player in program history, a Top 50 NBA player, an NBA Hall of Famer is coming home. What can not be overlooked is the man who has logged 15 years as an NBA assistant under highly respected NBA coaches. A man who understands the importance of details and the grind.

Was it the first choice for the school, myself or the readers here? Likely not. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t something to get excited about and fully support. There are enough people who truly want to see him succeed. His coaching mentors have been on the phone with Georgetown according to Woj . That’s not a family or coaching tree that blows smoke, and they would not have recommend Patrick around to other NBA executives over the last decade if they didn’t believe in his ability. It’s also worth noting that reports indicated the Sacramento Kings job was Patrick’s to lose until Dave Joerger became available.

Somehow most arrive at the point where they’re skeptical of Patrick’s work ethic and desire to recruit. He has to prove it, but why would we not give Patrick the benefit of the doubt? Did anyone see the way he played? Watched the way he attacked his new career? He turned down millions at a young age to stay in school and get his degree for his mother. He has always stuck to a process. People have doubted him at every stop and all he does is continue to work. Again, from Woj:

“Ewing has been dutifully studying the vastly different job requirements of running a college program, talking with, among others, college coaches who made the jump from professional basketball backgrounds, sources told The Vertical. Ewing has been gathering information on potential assistant coaches, working to find a staff that’ll balance his inexperience in recruiting. Those who have talked with Ewing in the past week believe that he’s fully understanding of the consuming nature of big-time college recruiting and is prepared to immerse himself in it.”

That is encouraging.

Yes, we hear about Clyde Drexler or Chris Mullin. Remember neither ever coached a day in their lives. And I’d say Mullin and St. John’s are actually trending up. Avery Johnson? His NBA credentials has Alabama with an incoming McDonald’s All-American backcourt after an encouraging season. Fred Hoiberg? Why doesn’t anyone like to use that example? In the end it’s a case by case situation and people have tended to steer towards the negative.

Ewing’s coaching style remains to be seen. It could be assumed given his career and who he has coached under that an emphasis on defense will be at the forefront. A good thing about NBA guys is they don’t try to over-complicate things - they, more than anyone, understand that talent is important and it can’t be constrained. A few quotes from Ewing via Sporting News from 2014:

“I can coach anybody. Basketball is not brain surgery. I've played this game long enough and coached it long enough that I can teach up anybody on how to play and the things to be successful."

“Everybody wants to be Golden State, but if you don't have Golden State talent, you can't play that way,” Ewing said. “So it all depends on what my team would be. That’s the way my philosophy is. I'm going to stress defense like they do. I'm going to stress rebounding like they do. I'm going to stress getting back and stopping teams in transition and not fouling. But also, you can stop teams, but you've also got to score. So you've got to push the ball down on the other end, get into offense quicker, try to get shots up as quickly as we can — good shots, though, not just rushed shots.”

Simple enough. Defend, rebound, run and get a good shot. This should help him from the jump in recruiting - HS kids want to know they’re going to be an offense that fits the pro-style mold. We simply didn’t have that before, Patrick should be bringing that with him.

Something that jumped out to me in looking over all this is that Patrick is not shy to give a quote or interview. He’s become very personable as he’s aged, and we can only hope that he starts to peel away at ‘Hoya Paranoia’. He can be honest to a fault and we should see that reflected during his time here. At the very least, we will have a more engaged and supportive group of ex-players. Patrick is adored by all and the support should flow in from Reggie Williams to Michael Graham to Alonzo Mourning and everyone in-between. It also likely preserves Georgetown’s Nike deal, and the program again will have a successful African-American man at the front of it. Patrick is one of ours. He brings energy and the excitement of the unknown.

Having said the above, this isn’t a homerun hire and does come with real concerns:

John Thompson, Jr.: Thompson still casts a large shadow, and from all accounts his voice did get heard during this process. However, Thompson needs to ease off now. We all appreciate and respect what he did in building the program, but now is the time to trust Patrick and let him do his own work. No meddling, no reason to be at every practice, don’t be at post-game pressers. Let Patrick do his job.

David Falk: Will elite prospects and their handlers view Georgetown as just a program who will funnel players to Falk? This a real thing. There’s a certain center who played for Patrick’s old AAU club a few years back whose decision came down to Georgetown and another school. This aspect of the program was viewed as a hangup in the ultimate head-shaving decision.

Recruiting: Programs will continue to negatively recruit against the perception of the ‘big man school’ and whether Ewing can attract and coach guards. Can he have a guy on the staff who can do it? This is imperative. Patrick should be putting out a product and an offense that is much more attractive than the Princeton offense, but he will have to fight through that perception and his staffing will be key to do so. I’m stopping short of putting the grind of recruiting as a major concern because Patrick has dealt with the NBA travel, the film, the on-court work, he has even coached summer league. He’s done it all with no reason to do so other than a love of the game and the challenge that has been in front of him. Each time I wonder about how he’ll attack the spring and summer circuit, I come back to having no evidence to suggest he will not be willing to hit the recruiting trail just as hard as he has taken on NBA duties. Constructing the proper staff, creating and maintaining relationships at the grassroots level is a concern and Patrick is wandering into the unknown - but failure won’t come from lack of effort.

Transition to the college game: The day to day activities of a college program will be an adjustment – I hope and would think he has a special assistant lined up that’s been around the block to help in that regard – again, he has the contacts do this. Just throwing a name out, but perhaps a guy like Mike Jarvis wouldn’t mind spending his glory days back in DC to help.

This decision to stay within the family does not come without risks. There is a fear that the ‘wall’ will remain and a new face is here to appease a man who retired nearly two decades ago. But there is reason for hope. Ewing is a hard-working man who has never cut any corners, and he’s coming home because he cares about this University and the status of its flagship program.

WE ARE GEORGETOWN, right? Nobody is more Georgetown than Patrick Ewing. I get the other end of it, I do. We wanted a fresh slate and a clean start. There’s a chance the culture does not change. But he deserves support. He deserves an opportunity and we’re finally the ones who gave it to him. Root like hell for him.