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There’s No Intimidating Patrick Ewing

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Georgetown University; Ben Standig

There’s a legitimate debate about Georgetown reaching back in time to hire Patrick Ewing as the school’s men’s basketball coach. Whatever one thinks of the decision, just know the 7-foot Basketball Hall of Famer handled the first public day on his new job the way he played during his Georgetown and NBA career: Unafraid. For day one, that just what the fans and the program needed.

During his introductory press conference inside the Thompson Athletic Center, the 144,000 on-campus practice facility still sporting that new car smell, the longtime NBA assistant stated he was intimidated by becoming a first-time head coach on any level. Even if he takes over a program, one he led to the 1984 national championship, coming off back-to-back losing seasons.

"Had a few down years, and they decided to make change," Ewing said. "It's a new era now."

He’s not intimidated by the stark reality that his Hoyas likely won’t be good again next season. The current roster includes approximately eight players – even Ewing acknowledged he isn’t sure who will return.

"Next year," he said, "is going to be a rough year."

He’s not intimidated with the 24/7, 365, cutthroat aspects of recruiting even though one of the last times he dealt with the process was his own as the nation’s top prep player in 1981. He’s wasn’t afraid to state the importance of tapping into the rich basketball talent in the Greater Washington area. “That’s my job. To get these great players to try to stay home.”

He’s not intimidated putting together a coaching staff “that has the ability to go out and recruit and teach me all the things I need to know” as he attacks the learning curve. What the 15-year NBA assistant lacks in college coaching or recruiting experience he makes up with legacy, basketball smarts and confidence.

“I don’t see anything different (about recruiting),” Ewing said. “It’s about going out and selling your program. I think I’m a great salesman.”

No signs of fear even though Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford told his friend and now former assistant he wouldn’t go back into the Division 1 ranks.

“I told him honestly I would go back to coach college, but I would go back to like Div. II or III,” Clifford said before Charlotte faced the Washington Wizards Tuesday. “Where the recruiting is still time consuming, but, to me, doable in a way that you can actually have some sense of a life. I recruited Conference USA one year. Recruiting is 24/7 12 months a year and if you don’t do it, like that you have no shot because that’s what the top-20 coaches are doing. Those guys are great coaches, but they are great recruiters. They all recruit non-stop. He knows that. He doesn’t have his head in the sand.”

Ewing certainly wasn’t intimidated by multiple questions from a pushy, out-out-touch reporter who pressed the legendary Hoya on his first day of work about consistently playing other local programs. “I see that’s your mantra,” he cracked when the pestering continued during a smaller breakout session with reporters.

He’s not intimidated about speaking his mind. News broke last month that Georgetown fired John Thompson III, a man Ewing knew as a boy. “I felt like I had been fired,” said Ewing, whose son was part of Thompson’s coaching staff. Yet Ewing didn’t shy away from stating he felt last year’s 14-18 team “underachieved.” He provided refreshing comments that the program needed a return to its imposing “Hoya Paranoia” persona in the Big East.

In the coming days, we should learn specifics about the assistant coaching staff. Those current unknowns will be to recruiting the players needed so Ewing can implement his desired “up-tempo, push-the-ball, shoot 3’s when you have it” approach used in Charlotte that also recognizes defense comes first.

After only one NCAA Tournament appearance in four years, after the unsettling end to the JTIII era and after some reported misfires early in the coaching search, this was a good day for the Georgetown fan base and those outsiders intrigued by the starry return. For the moment, that’s enough. Tomorrow, we’ll see. The rebuild task is daunting.

Just know that whatever comes next, there’s no intimidating Patrick Ewing.