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Letter to the Editor: Patrick Ewing a Better Offensive Coach Than John Thompson, Jr.

Georgetown v St John’s Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images


As somebody who came of age watching Georgetown basketball on a crappy 18” color TV during my “tween” years, I have had to question my recollection of the Ewing-era Hoyas whenever I see references to this period on CH by fans who refer to the high-octane offense or scoring mentality of those teams.

JTII’s teams in those days were consistently ugly in half-court offense, except when they got the ball down low to one of the greatest low-post players in college history. There was nothing pretty about the offensive style those teams played, which frankly was their only real weakness (other than free-throw shooting). Georgetown’s suffocating full-court press (with Ewing at the top of the opposite key as the imposing enforcer), their sticky half-court man-to-man, and their ability to turn most turnovers and defensive rebounds into fast-break opportunities are what made those teams truly great. But let’s not fool ourselves: John Thompson Jr. was NEVER a good offensive coach (much less a great one). In fact, I fully expect Patrick Ewing to be an infinitely better offensive coach than was his mentor.

Not to overwhelm you with the mundane (OK, I’m going to anyway), here are just the scores from the BE tourney and NCAA tourney games Ewing’s Hoyas played over those four years (yes, I had to look them up - my memory sucked before my mid-forties, but holy hell has it regressed):



62-48 Provy

57-42 St. John’s

72-54 ‘Nova


51-43 Wyoming

58-40 Fresno St.

69-45 Oregon St.

50-46 Louisville

62-63 UNC (I think - there’s no reference to this game anywhere on the internet, so it’s possible it never actually took place, though I believe Cheating James Worthy wore a Georgetown jersey for the final minute of this one...)

1982-83 (this team lost 62-61 to AU at the Cap Center for crap’s sake!)


72-79 Syracuse


68-63 Alcorn State

57-66 Memphis State


BET (Now these three games WERE high scoring)

70-50 Provy

79-68 St. John’s

82-71 Syracuse


37-36 SMU (I was forced to listen to this game on the radio - wow, was that painful)

62-48 UNLV

61-49 Dayton

53-40 Kentucky

84-75 Houston

1984-85 (also very high-scoring games)


93-62 UConn

74-65 Syracuse

92-82 St. John’s


68-43 Lehigh

68-46 Temple

65-53 Loyola

60-54 Georgia Tech

77-59 St. John’s

64-66 (I believe this title has been vacated due to a federal law against misuse of rolled up dollar bills…)

The bottom line is this: There is no arguing that this week’s 69-66 win at St. John’s was indeed ugly, but that final score and the scrappiness of the game are both quite reminiscent of Georgetown’s games during the Ewing years. The Hoyas offensive turnovers and lack of guards to apply true pressure to opponents are probably the most glaring differences between Ewing’s teams as a player and his first 20 as a coach.

Post-script: Even in latter years without a dominant center (Reggie and the Miracles of ’86-’87, and Iverson’s two seasons), the Hoyas hardly had well-constructed offenses, just sublime college players who bailed out stalled offenses on numerous occasions. Hell, arguably Mourning’s best team should have lost to Princeton, for crying out loud.

I have far more confidence in Patrick turning this team into an efficient offensive team than I ever would have been about John Thompson Jr.’s teams, as much as I admire him as both a coach and a man during his tenure.