Former Georgetown great Ewing hired as next coach.
Hall of Famer influenced Hoyas might
There’s a picture of 7-foot Patrick Ewing, the “Hoya Destroya,” with his arms extended to the sides and palms turned upward.
Ewing is wearing that Georgetown gray. It’s on the wristbands that creep up his forearms, his sweat-laden T-shirt and most of his uniform. Five of the most recognizable letters in Georgetown basketball history are stitched above the No. 33: E-W-I-N-G. It may as well be shorthand for Hoyas hoops.
After a Hall of Fame career and 15 seasons as an overlooked assistant coach in the NBA, Ewing is returning to the Hilltop. On Monday, he was named the program’s fourth coach since John Thompson Jr. resurrected the school from the basketball wastelands in 1972. This coach is not a former Thompson assistant or a Thompson family member. Instead, it’s a former player, one that had as much influence in establishing the program’s might in the 1980s as any other.
“My four years at Georgetown were the best of my life,” Ewing said in a statement. “It is a great honor for me to return to my alma mater and serve as the next head coach. I have been preparing to be a head coach for many years and can’t wait to return to the Hilltop.”
Ewing’s hiring came together quickly, with the 11time NBA All-Star arriving in Washington on Sunday and interviewing for the position Monday. Ewing, 54, is expected to leave his position as associate head coach of the Charlotte Hornets immediately to begin building his staff. He also benefited from the NBA schedule. Charlotte plays the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on Tuesday night.
Ewing has no college coaching experience. In fact, Ewing has never been in charge of a basketball team. His name was attached to a variety of openings at the NBA level during his time as an assistant in the league. None of the hearsay or interviews resulted in a job.
That changed after Georgetown parted ways with John Thompson III, wresting the job away from a man with the last name “Thompson” for the first time in 13 years and just the second time in 45 years.
The move comes a day after the anniversary of the school’s lone national title, won in 1984 by a team led by Ewing. Georgetown reached the Final Four three times from 1981-85 when Ewing and “Big John” were anchoring the program.
University President John J. DeGioia and Athletics Director Lee Reed both praised Ewing Monday as they welcomed him back to Georgetown.
“Patrick’s commitment to Georgetown and to further animating our legacy of excellence is inspiring,” DeGioia said in a statement. “He is a visionary leader with a deep connection to our community. His experience as a coach over the last 15 years with some of the best basketball minds in the country has prepared him to lead our program. We very much look forward to welcoming him back to our Hilltop as the head coach of our men’s basketball team.”
“After a very thorough national search, Patrick Ewing emerged as the talented leader best prepared to coach the Hoyas in this new era of highly competitive college basketball,” Reed said. “To hire a head coach with this depth of coaching experience and personal achievements is tremendous. It is a thrill to have him come back to his alma mater and continue the legacy of tradition and success he had as a student-athlete on the Hilltop.”
Under the younger Thompson, the Hoyas reached the Sweet 16 in 2006 and the Final Four in 2007, but have failed to make it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament since, losing to midmajors Ohio, Virginia Commonwealth, and Florida Gulf Coast in that time.
Georgetown went 15-18 with 7-11 in the Big East in 2016. Their eighth-place finish in the conference meant the Hoyas missed the postseason for the first time under Thompson.
Georgetown finished 14-18 — ninth in the Big East — last season.
Although Ewing’s hiring means a Thompson will no longer be running the show at Georgetown, the family’s legacy still looms large.
Last fall, the university opened the John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletic Center. The state-of-theart facility included new practice courts, lockers, and several nods to Georgetown’s past glories. A statue of Ewing’s old coach was also unveiled.
Ewing will begin the process of rebuilding a Georgetown team that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2015, and he will need to do so without his top 2017 recruit.
Point guard Tremont Waters reopened his recruitment prior to Thompson’s firing. The New Haven, Connecticut, native was ranked 33rd in the 2017 ESPN 100 recruiting rankings. In addition, junior shooting guard L.J. Peak declared early for the NBA draft.
As much as Ewing’s in-game strategy will be key, how he relates to 16 year olds will also be paramount. Ewing will need to populate his staff with whatever marquee recruiters he can convince to join him at Georgetown. His name will resonate with parents, but the top players in upcoming classes won’t have any memory of Ewing playing in the NBA, let alone at Georgetown.
After his Hall of Fame career, Patrick Ewing spent 15 seasons as an overlooked NBA assistant coach. On Monday, he returned to his alma mater as Georgetown’s new coach.