clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

BREAKING: Patrick Ewing and Georgetown Part Ways

Ewing’s tenure marked with transfers, inconsistent defense, and a BIG EAST Tournament Championship

Georgetown Introduce Patrick Ewing Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Georgetown Hoyas and head coach Patrick Ewing are reportedly going their separate ways. After 6 years, Ewing will be leaving in wake of the most recent loss to Villanova in the BIG EAST Tournament and winning only 2 of the last 39 conference games over the past two seasons.

Since Patrick Ewing has been coaching his alma mater, the team has gone 75-109 over the last six seasons, including 15-15, 19-14, 15-17, 13-13, 6-25, and 7-25. With a BIG EAST Tournament ring on his finger, Ewing is not going home empty handed, but it’s very hard to say that Georgetown’s favorite son is leaving the program in a better position than how he found it.

On Wednesday night, after the loss to Villanova in the first round of the BIG EAST Tournament, Ewing said, “This institution has been great to me over the years ... I’d be honored to come back as the coach here” and “My future’s in the hands of our president and our AD and the board of the directors.”

The Georgetown press release states:

Georgetown University announced today that Patrick Ewing will no longer serve as Head Men’s Basketball Coach and that it has begun a national search for new leadership of the program.

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia said, “Patrick Ewing is the heart of Georgetown basketball. I am deeply grateful to Coach Ewing for his vision, his determination, and for all that he has enabled Georgetown to achieve. Over these past six years, he was tireless in his dedication to his team and the young men he coached and we will forever be grateful to Patrick for his courage and his leadership in our Georgetown community.”

“It has been a privilege to work with Patrick over these past years and I deeply appreciate all of his hard work and efforts to support our student-athletes and the Men’s Basketball program. We are grateful to all those who have supported this program through this time. We will immediately launch a national search for our next coach and look forward to a bright future for Hoya basketball,” said Lee Reed, Director for Intercollegiate Athletics at Georgetown.

Statement from Patrick Ewing
“I am very proud to be a graduate of Georgetown University. And I am very grateful to President DeGioia for giving me the opportunity to achieve my ambition to be a head basketball coach. It is particularly meaningful to me to be in charge of the basketball program at my alma mater. I wish the program nothing but success. I will always be a Hoya.”

Change was supposed to come last April and Ewing repeatedly told national reporters throughout the offseason that “With the way that things happened last year, it can never happen again on my watch.” Unfortunately, failure happened again, going 2-18 in conference play. Ewing will always be a Georgetown legend, but his time as head coach has rightfully come to an end.

Over the last 18 months, dozens of media outlets repeatedly noted the record-breaking lack of success at Georgetown, the inconsistency in year-to-year player personnel, and the inevitable difficulty in separating from the Hoya’s all-time best player as leader of the program. Many outlets have cited President Jack DeGioia’s loyalty to Ewing as the reason why he has remained coach this long, while others pointed to a semi-secret contract extension that may have made a buyout financially unsound until now, apparently.

Since last year’s 0-19 conference record, there were assumptions that this transition might happen at various times throughout this 2022-23 season. It quickly became obvious to anyone watching that Georgetown would usurp DePaul’s conference losing streak record and have another tremendously disappointing season. But, like last year, a midseason change never came, despite the many calls for a new direction.

Last March, Athletic Director Lee Reed made a statement that “we are working with [Coach Ewing] to evaluate every aspect of the men’s basketball program and to make the necessary changes for him to put us back on the path to success for next year.” This 2022 sentiment was echoed by a Tweet from Patrick Ewing addressing retirement rumors, saying that his “plan is to be back next year coaching at my alma mater and bringing this program back to prominence.” To say this unwarranted optimism was met with anger by the Hoya faithful might be an understatement. Some of those fans lost a year of rooting for their favorite team, while many others may be absent from Capital One Arena for much, much longer.

In early January 2023, Reed’s new statement sounded a little different, saying, “We recognize this is a challenging and frustrating time for the men’s basketball team and our fans” and that “Coach Ewing understands that it is imperative to get the program back on track and no one is more committed than he is to making that happen.” At that point, Ewing’s squad received 24 straight losses from BIG EAST teams and carried a losing streak against the last 29 high-major opponents. They went on to lose five more BIG EAST games during that “challenging and frustrating time.”

The Hoyas snapped their 29-game conference losing streak when they beat the DePaul at home on Tuesday, January 24th, 2023 by a score of 81-76. Like every other game this season, the starters played the bulk of the minutes with a few logging 36+ minutes on the floor. Georgetown earned the home win essentially at the free-throw line. Staying aggressive kept the Hoyas in a few games, including a win at Hinkle over the Butler Bulldogs, but the Hoyas generally suffered from slow starts or tired finishes (and sometimes both) in their last 18 in-season losses.

Even with a recent history of making some late game runs to cover the spread, most of the games this season never felt that close. Up until the end, Ewing’s 2022-23 Hoyas have always looked like they’ve failed to “gel.” In many post-game press conference, Ewing would mention a lack of ball movement or that the basketball would “stick” but there would always be a healthy dose of similar isolation plays in the very next game. Having poor team chemistry started out as a somewhat valid excuse for turnovers and terrible transition defense with 6+ transfers playing major minutes, but it turned into a punchline in February as the mistakes were repetitive and accountability was absent.

It wasn’t always this bad for Ewing at Georgetown. There were times of hope. Ewing’s hiring as Georgetown’s head coach, announced on April 7, 2017, had hopes to simultaneously modernize the Hoyas’ offense and return the program to the better days. Ewing took the reins after John Thompson III was let go, reportedly at the behest of John Thompson Jr. encouraging Ewing to lobby President DeGioia to have the job and make sure “one of our own [has] the job.”

Upon hiring, Ewing immediately sped up Georgetown pace of play and offered many pro-style offensive sets. Issues in the 2017-18 season with three-point defense, turnovers, and poor shot selection turned out to be foreshadowing rather than merely first-year hiccups. They scored pretty consistently but they were on the wrong side of too many runs where they couldn’t secure a “stop.”

Ewing inherited a roster led by Marcus Derrickson and Jessie Govan with four-year favorites Jagan Mosely and Kaleb Johnson, and added freshmen Jahvon Blair and Jamorko Pickett. They were 15-15 overall and 5-13 in the conference. Over the years, Ewing recruited some other quality players like James Akinjo, Mac McClung, Josh LeBlanc, Dante Harris, Aminu Mohammed, Jordan Riley, Denver Anglin, Ryan Mutombo, and transfer Omer Yurtseven to campus. Along with attracting some coveted transfers, Ewing and his staff did a fair job of recruiting talent. Retaining players was a different story.

The list of transfers for the Ewing-era (2017-2023) includes Dante Harris, Donald Carey, Collin Holloway, Tyler Beard, Timothy Ighoefe, Jalin Billingsley, Kobe Clark, Jamari Sibley, T.J. Berger, Mac McClung, James Akinjo, Josh LeBlanc, Galen Alexander, Myron Gardner, Grayson Carter, Antwan Walker, Chris Sodom, and Qudus Wahab (returned). Also of note, transfer forward Tre King never played a game for Georgetown and transfer guard Jalen Harris left the team after five games in 2020 with family reasons. Denver Anglin just announced his intent to enter the transfer portal saying, “This is more than just a game, it’s life.”

Perhaps more than a few defections can be written off as stubborn individuals or having family-members-turned-handlers who didn’t reveal their true colors until it was too late. Several high-profile transfers occurred, especially considering the reports of legal issues for three athletes surfacing in November 2019. Overall, the amount of players who have left—even in the “free agency” transfer portal and NIL era—is staggering: 20+ in six years. While none of the transfers have gone on to become world-beaters, and every one surely had personal reasons, the collection represents a tremendous loss of talent and lost recruiting time and resources for Ewing’s staff.

Ewing’s original coaching staff included his former Knicks teammate Louis Orr, as well as JTIII hold-overs in Robert Kirby and Akbar Waheed. Over the first five years, the staff had not changed significantly aside from the addition of Clinton Crouch as a special assistant. Kirby and Waheed were dismissed last March, Crouch was elevated this season, and Kevin Nickelberry was hired and quickly promoted after recruiting players such as Brandon Murray, Primo Spears, and Bradley Ezewiro and Marvel Allen (‘23) to the Hilltop. Pat Baldwin was hired as a new assistant after losing his head coaching position at Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Louis Orr, taken off the road, passed away in mid-December after a battle with cancer.

Originally, Ronny Thompson was quietly appointed “Chief of Staff” before the first Ewing-led season and finally had his title and photo on the webpage as the 2022-23 season started.

Recruiting and retaining talent doesn’t tell the complete story of how Georgetown came to be in its current position. The X’s and O’s played a fair share these past two years. Defense has been way below national average—let alone well below a level of defense typically associated with the Blue and Gray. Outside of about 15 games in February and March 2021, there have been 150+ contests ranging from “poor” to “very mediocre” for Georgetown’s defense under Patrick Ewing.

In itself, this is surprising as Ewing was one of the best collegiate basketball defenders to play the game. From 2017-2018 until this season, KenPom has rated Georgetown’s Adjusted Defense as numbers 119, 133, 125, 49, 228, and 245 in the nation, respectively. Perimeter defense has been consistently miserable with KenPom’s opponent three-point percentage rankings during those years being 161, 146, 313, 176, 326, and 357 in the nation, respectively.

The statistics are generally not anything that aspiring tournament teams or Power-6 leaders can afford to be associated with. Consistent defensive rankings in the triple digits exemplified a lack of willingness to adapt or change to the realized needs of the college game.

The program, under Ewing, has exhibited many of the same tired issues on that end of the floor: poor switching on screens, abysmal perimeter guarding, over-helping inside, and impatience on head fakes. These have unfortunately become the hallmarks of the Ewing Era Defense. A far cry from John Thompson, Jr.’s defensive identity in the full-court, 40-minute Hoya Paranoia Press.

The offense has had its share of problems under Coach Ewing, as well. Much different from the “Princeton Offense” run by JTIII, Ewing had long preached a high-pace of play that resembles an NBA-style and is thought to be attractive to recruits. Through the first four years, Ewing’s teams generally did not have issues putting up 70+ points, even in conference play. That changed over the past two seasons.

Even with different casts of characters, issues such as poor ball movement, point guards blindly driving into traffic, and unforced turnovers are typical reasons a Ewing-led offense is on the wrong side of one of their typical 20-2-style runs.

Throughout the Ewing Era, there were more than a couple catastrophic collapses. One memorable one was the 0-23 game-ending run against St. John’s in the first round of the COVID-canceled BIG EAST Tournament of March 2020. Not many teams gave closure for their fans that year but Georgetown did in spectacularly disappointing fashion.

Still, Patrick Ewing’s teams had some big wins that gave Hoyas fans some pride, at times. Last year, Georgetown, at home, beat Syracuse in December 2021, 79-75. 2020-21’s BIG EAST Tournament championship run took down ranked opponents in Villanova (14) and Creighton (17).

Post-defection wins against Syracuse, Creighton (25), and at Butler (19) in 2020 certainly stand out, as well as the win over Texas (22) at Madison Square Garden in November 2020.

The 9-9 conference season, tying for third place in the BIG EAST in 2018-19, included wins against Villanova (17) and at Marquette (16) as signature wins for Ewing at the time. Each of these brought a modicum of false hope that Georgetown Basketball was turning the corner and getting back to its former elite status.

Until recently, player development was generally thought to be positive under Ewing with Omer Yurtseven now playing a significant role with the Miami Heat, Jamorko Pickett on a two-way contract with the Detroit Pistons, and several forever Hoyas like Jessie Govan, Chudier Bile, Kaleb Johnson, and Trey Mourning finding roster spots in the G-League. Former Ewing-era Georgetown favorites like Jagan Mosely, Marcus Derrickson, Terrell Allen, Trey Dickerson, and Jahvon Blair have had successful professional seasons here and abroad.

And Patrick Ewing will always have a 2021 BIG EAST Tournament Championship ring. That season, during the COVID-19 pandemic, was a miraculous feat with gutsy players aligning their desire and focus to achieve something special, despite the odds. While that success is thought to have encouraged some emotional decision-making for Ewing’s coaching future, the wins in March 2021 were an incredible diversion during a globally tough time and meant so much to success-starved Georgetown fans.

As hard as it might be right now, that week two years ago needs to be remembered for the positivity the games brought and never second-guessed as a mere stroke of luck. That team—with the prior year’s defections, the COVID delays, and the crowd-less McDonough arena—earned that championship fair and square. It was not a fluke.

Many basketball fans may chalk the end of the Ewing era as another failed experiment in college hoops with an NBA Legend as coach. That’s not the full story.

Last year, Zach Braziller of the New York Post wrote “This isn’t exactly Chris Mullin’s failed tenure at St. John’s, a first-time coach who was unwilling to put in the necessary time and hire the right people. Ewing spent 15 years in the NBA as an assistant coach. He has worked hard and recruited well. But it is clearly not working.” He’s not wrong.

Patrick Ewing likely deserved an NBA head coaching position at one point but, for whatever reasons, it never materialized. Ewing never gave the flashiest press conferences or provided the pithiest quotes, but guys who sniffed the NBA seem to note his positive influence in their development. There’s no doubt that the Hall of Famer knows the game of basketball in and out.

Whatever room Big Pat walks into, it’s hard to say there is someone who works harder than Ewing. Still, it’s hard to point to anything like that as an identity for the Georgetown teams he coached.

In a perfect world, the hallmarks of the Ewing Era would be toughness, discipline, and a continued legacy of the Georgetown-Thompson-Ewing family, but that is not the case. Now, Ewing’s time as head coach is done and Georgetown must look in a new direction in its quest to get back to elite college basketball.