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OPINION: Where Can We Direct Our Hoya Anger This Season?

How much of the poor play can we blame on Ewing? The pandemic?

St. John’s v Georgetown Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Georgetown Hoyas lost to the Navy Midshipmen. It was bad. We know. The upcoming Sunday game against a high-ranked West Virginia looks bleak. The BIG EAST conference season looks overwhelming. The women’s team had to pause activities due to coronavirus. There’s no joy on the Hilltop.

Two games in and, already, the Hoya faithful have been hearing (and repeating) a lot of the same stories. For instance:

Georgetown hasn’t been to the tournament since 2015, and a team picked to finish last in the conference doesn’t look like that streak will be broken.

Did you know that Ewing had to add nine new players because several transferred last year? What happened to Georgetown’s discipline?

How on earth could anyone, let alone Patrick Ewing, replace the scoring of Omer Yurtseven and M*c McCl*ng? This offense will stagnate.

Jamorko Pickett has all the tools to be a star. Ugh. If he could only put them together consistently, he’d be a lottery pick! Right?

Yeah. It’s a tough year. However, despite being truly angry about how the team looked on Tuesday, we need to have a discussion about what’s within Ewing and the team’s control.

Remember, it’s not an easy year to be a fan of any team right now. It’s not even really December on the schedule. If we’re going to get through this without killing each other and hating ourselves, we need patience and perspective.

What We Really Cannot Get Angry About:

1. Chemistry and preparation to the extent that COVID-19 limited practices. We get it, they looked disjointed. They barely communicated. Transition offense was half-speed. Turnovers were frequent. Help defense was abysmal. Screen navigation appeared to be taught by Stevie Wonder. We have to remember that they’ve been practicing a month. Relax. For now. Plenty of time to get angry about that after game 5 or 6.

2. New players. Typically new guys come to campus in June. I know, you didn’t get a chance to see them in Kenner League. Well, they didn’t even get to play in Kenner League. Zoom practices? Get real. At best, they were getting up shots and running miles. Other teams are in the same boat, but other teams may have had more cohesion last March. Nine new faces need to learn offensive and defensive principles by practicing, together. You really think Big Tim knows everyone’s name yet? C’mon (kidding!). The new guys are at a special disadvantage this year, unfortunately. But the new Hoyas will come along. Oh, and Jamari Sibley will likely become a Hoya favorite soon enough.

3. Recruiting. It’s tough to tell the talent level of this team right now because of how poorly they executed in-game. How much did they underperform? We certainly didn’t get a good look a rookies through two games. But freshmen around the country have seen limited minutes this year. Even if we assume low minutes means Ewing perceives low talent, we can’t go back in time and recruit more 4- and 5-stars. We can only look a head and—guess what—there’s a top-rated recruiting class coming next year. Ryan Mutombo, Jordan Riley, Tyler Beard, and Jalin Billingsley all signed Letters of Intent. Yeah, things could change, but that’s a contract and each of them is excited to come. So the suggestions for Ewing and staff to revolutionize the way they recruit—e.g., start strolling around DC playgrounds and sucking up to AAU coaches—needs to pause. Yes, they should be working on 2022 as best as they can, but it makes zero sense to get angry about recruiting in the past without considering next year’s class.

If the goal of your criticism is to end Ewing’s tenure as quickly as possible, fine, that’s your prerogative. But I’d argue that the aircraft carrier has already begun its long, slow turn and the loss to Navy is more likely just part of the growing pains than a symptom of a plague. Help is on the way. It only makes sense to be patient with the group in front of us.

Of course, I’m never going to relinquish my right to criticize a coach with a million-dollar paycheck. If he’s a bum, he’s a bum. Ewing is ultimately in charge of the program and should be held responsible for the current state—tournament appearances, transfers, talent level, effort, McDonough’s lousy rims, etc. My point is merely that, especially in this pandemic year, it’s nonsensical to fire shots at Ewing and Georgetown without aiming.

What We Can Get Angry About

1. Defense. As much as the defensive woes might be because of poor communication, lack of practice, and failure to just plain keep your man in front of you from not having enough practice time, there are some scheme issues. Coach Ewing has to do something significantly different. Show some different looks. Find consistency in defending screens. Not biting on every pump fake. Personally, I thought the main reason he had 9 new players was to implement a good amount of press defense, e.g., to speed up slower teams. When?

2. Rotational issues because Ewing brought in 9 new players. Ewing has 9 new players and still doesn’t know who’s any good. He needs to keep guys happy, while still trying to win ballgames—and he makes it harder on himself with huge additions each year. Also, NBA-type reserve unit substitutions that we’ve seen in prior seasons are not the way to go. Consistent lineups are at least a month away.

3. In-game adaptation. Basketball is a game of runs, especially the way Georgetown attacks on offense. The Hoyas go on a run, then need to hold off a run by the other team. Ewing needs to be better at seeing the momentum change and nipping the counter-run in the bud. This means taking time-outs at the right time and pulling the right lineup strings. Again, the criticism of Ewing as an NBA-mindset coach means he may not need to wait until periods end or media timeouts to talk to his team, give them a breather, and consider some different plays. He has to manage the game better to give these underdogs a chance.

4. Energy and effort. Come on. You’ve got 13 guys. Find someone with a fire burning. Press. Get their legs moving. There is nothing to lose.

5. Transparency and access to Georgetown staff and players. Respectfully, keep reminding Georgetown to do better to stop alienating fans. As much as he wants to get back to practicing and recruiting, Ewing can’t afford to feel put out by answering questions. Pat’s “state secrets” joke is only funny if it’s not always true.

OK, there’s no need to feign optimism for Georgetown this year, but abandoning all hope is no help.

It should be pretty clear that fans are allowed to be angry about anything at all, but it really only makes sense to rage about things that are in the control of Ewing and the team moving forward. There is no time machine to go back and retool this roster or speed up to new recruits. The transfers are gone and the episode is over. I suggest watching other basketball games and trying to discern when team and player struggles are a result of poor talent or just limited practice in a pandemic. It’s not an easy year on any team.

Of course, I can’t tell any fan how to root for their favorite team, but maybe consider being a little more rational in one’s expectations—for the sake of the program’s future.

Our goals as fans might be to:

1. Keep Georgetown under the radar. If the Hoyas stink, let them stink. It’s a rebuild during a pandemic. There’s maybe one more game this year that Georgetown will not be an underdog. Let it be. No need to channel your passion for GU into Ewing Hatred this year. Stop tweeting and posting. If you need a release, tell your dog about it.

2. Try not to scare away any potential recruits. It’s laughable to think we can affect recruiting, but kids want to see a receptive fanbase. There’s no need to bad-mouth Ewing and Georgetown for things that are out of their control like slow chemistry development. We can focus on small improvements over the course of a year and we will get a better idea of what the team may look like in 2020-21. It just takes a Jeff Green or Otto Porter to pull things together, so consider that Aminu Mohammed or Chet Holmgren could catapult this program before you join in the “Fire Ewing” drum circle.

3. Support the guys in Blue & Gray. You’re a fan and this is a tough year for them. Show them support and appreciation, especially four-year players Jamorko Pickett and Jahvon Blair. They will have nice seasons and likely go on to professional careers. We know that the athletes like to play for Coach Pat—we’ve seen it and heard it enough. Support them. Remember, we are Georgetown.

My bottom line is that we need to distinguish what issues are due to COVID-19 limitations and what issues really are continuations of problems we’ve seen in three years of Ewing. Likewise, predictable speed bumps on the recovery from the defections do not always call for re-litigation of the December Defections. This season is far from excused, it just needs some patience and recalibration or perspective.

Still, part of being a Georgetown fan is to relish in the sadomasochism, so feel free to rage on!