In April of 1984, Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas won their first National Championship. Thirty-three years later, almost to the day, #33 took over as head coach of that very same basketball team. It’s a great story, one that people are very excited to watch play out. For now, the excitement is accompanied by an abundance of speculation and discussion regarding what he will be able to do for the struggling basketball program.
If you need a fix and the steady stream of content generated by this lunch blog isn’t enough, here is what the internet is saying about Monday’s events:
Ewing led Georgetown to three national title game appearances (winning one) before going on to have a Hall of Fame career in the NBA, with most of his 17 years in the pros spent with the New York Knicks.
Though the natural instinct is to compare Georgetown’s hiring of Ewing to that of St. John’s and Chris Mullin — these two will face off on the sidelines twice a year now! — the situations are actually quite different. Mullin had zero coaching experience when he was hired in 2015 to resurrect St. John’s, meaning he was a hire made solely based on the idea of rejuvenating a program by hiring a famously successful former player.
Conversely, Ewing – despite his Hall of Fame career as a player – began at the bottom of the coaching ranks and worked his way up. He spent lengthy stints as an assistant under Jeff Van Gundy with the Houston Rockets and then Stan Van Gundy with the Orlando Magic before taking on his current role as associate head coach under Steve Clifford with the Charlotte Hornets.
The Van Gundy brothers and Clifford are three of the most respected basketball minds in NBA coaching circles, and all three have been saying for years that Ewing, when he gets his shot, will prove to be a very good coach.
“I think that he’s attacked the coaching profession in the same work manner that made him so successful as a player. He’s a nuts and bolts coach, detailed oriented and constantly looking for ways to make himself better. He’s going be a big loss here.” - Steve Clifford, Charlotte Hornets Head Coach
“Very few who have been a top-50 player of all time has ever invested more into a second career than Patrick has into coaching,” Van Gundy told The Vertical. “Because of that work ethic and his understanding of the craft, he’s not going into it alone. He’s going to work together with his staff and players and the coaches of players of prospective players. He’s going to be very inclusive. It’s going to serve him well. “His personality has been misunderstood for so long that I can’t get wait for him to show the masses his humor and intelligence and his core values when it comes to leadership.”
With ample tradition, membership in the Big East and central location on a recruiting motherlode — the so-called D.M.V., or the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia region, which produces numerous top-tier recruits — many believe Georgetown has the structure to be nationally competitive consistently.
Ewing should have been hired because of the administrators’ trust and belief in his acumen as a coach. And now Ewing has to assemble the right staff. Georgetown isn’t going to be good again just because its greatest player is its latest coach. Ewing needs at least one former head coach, someone with a lot of experience. He needs an elite recruiter to navigate the difficult reality of networking in Washington and the surrounding areas. Doing that will be more challenging for Ewing than trying to beat Villanova, Syracuse and Xavier.
Georgetown has never again been as good or feared or relevant as it was when Ewing turned the program into one of the most talked about teams in all of American sports. He probably won’t be able to get the Hoyas back to that place, but by this point, he’s earned a chance to try. This is a ruling undeniably touched with nostalgia. It’s a decision that could set back Georgetown another five years.
But I can’t say it’s a great ball or a bad call. I can say that Ewing, now 54, has earned the right to try.
At least, Patrick said on the phone that day, he was interviewing for head coaching jobs now. He was getting closer. “It’s going to happen,” he said. “I honestly believe it’s going to happen.”
Ewing’s wasn’t just as tough as anybody who ever played for the Knicks. He was much more than that, the second greatest player they ever had after Clyde Frazier. And the people who knew him the best, like Van Gundy, always talked about how well he knew the game. By the way? No one knew him better than Van Gundy did, from the days when Van Gundy was a Knicks assistant and when everybody else was gone, it would be the two of them in the gym, Van Gundy feeding him basketballs and rebounding for him as Ewing – who had come out of Georgetown with us thinking he was going to be a defender and shot blocker – was making himself into a superb shooter.
1. Defense and rebounding on lock.
Ewing comes from the Van Gundy coaching tree, where brothers Jeff and Stan built a system that hinges on smart on-ball defense and aggressive defensive rebounding. The idea is simple: Rather than going for turnovers or blocks that can lead to mistakes and fouls, simply prevent penetration and box out to insure opponents are taking difficult shots and not getting second chances.
Hiring strong assistant coaches is going to be one of the keys for Ewing to be successful at the college level. Since Ewing has been an NBA assistant for so long, he should have a solid grasp on X’s and O’s, but recruiting is going to be completely new to him.
Ewing certainly has the individual pedigree and NBA connections to be appealing to elite recruits but he’ll also have to put in a lot of effort to close against other top-flight programs.
The hire is a sign that John Thompson II remains a powerful force within the school. There was little doubt Ewing would take this job if he didn’t have the blessing of the elder Thompson, for whom he played during a collegiate career that included three Final Fours – including the 1984 national championship – from 1982-85. Ewing went on to a Hall of Fame NBA career once the New York Knicks made him the top overall pick in the 1985 NBA draft.
Ewing’s son, Patrick Ewing Jr., served on John Thompson III’s staff as an assistant coach the last two seasons.
For now, though, Georgetown will be praised for finally giving Ewing an opportunity to run his own team, and Ewing, being the massively popular personality fans love to recall dunking in the Garden and over Phi Slamma Jamma, will be celebrated. Come next season, when the focus has shifted to the fact that this still-celebrated program has failed to draw interest from any of its local talent and missed three of the past four NCAA tournaments, we’ll see how the legacy choice works out.
Reactions were coming in from twittter as well, with congratulations from athletes, celebrities and media figures alike:
Pat Riley on new Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing: "He has come home."— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) April 3, 2017
Full statement from Riles here: pic.twitter.com/Z7cmx1Yx7T
I Am So Happy That My Man The Great New York Knickerbocker Patrick Ewing Has Gotten A Head… https://t.co/tVGALVsyo9— Spike Lee (@SpikeLee) April 3, 2017
Ewing has been ready for years. Done all the prep work necessary. Worked for great coaches (Collins, VanGundys, etc.) Never self-promoted.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) April 3, 2017
Have no doubt Ewing will put a great staff together, including assistants who’ll mine the DMV more successfully. Also knows/gets analytics.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) April 3, 2017
Thrilled for Patrick Ewing, hired as Georgetown's new head coach. Patrick is a very smart, hard working coach that has put his time in. pic.twitter.com/aXhNrCRuLP— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) April 3, 2017
Patrick Ewing, a Hall of Famer, could have retired to an estate in Jamaica. Instead, he is a coaching lifer. That tells you something.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) April 3, 2017
Congratulations to my dream team teammate & hall-of-famer Patrick Ewing on going back to his alma mater as head coach for Georgetown U!— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 4, 2017
That’s all for now.