Hir­ing needed break from family tree

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - DERON SNYDER

There are reasons to ques­tion Ge­orge­town’s han­dling of its open­ing for a men’s bas­ket­ball coach. The lat­est head-scratcher arose Mon­day af­ter­noon: The school needed a search firm to end up with Pa­trick Ewing? Korn Ferry should re­turn a por­tion of the Hoyas’ fee for a home­town dis­count.

From the mo­ment Ewing’s name was floated as a re­place­ment for John Thomp­son III, I rooted against this hir­ing. Not that I har­bor ill will to­ward Ewing, the Hoya great who en­joyed a Hall of Fame ca­reer with my beloved New York Knicks. On the con­trary, I wish Ewing all the best.

The same is true of my hope for the Hoyas, who forged a spe­cial place in the hearts and minds of my con­tem­po­raries and me dur­ing the 1980s. Big John Thomp­son’s teams in­stilled in us a sense of pride and achieve­ment that tran­scended athletics. They formed a

cul­tural force as much as a hoops pow­er­house, from their dom­i­nance in the polls to their kente-in­spired uni­forms.

So it’s my de­sire that Ewing be­comes a great coach who leads the Hoyas back to na­tional promi­nence. It’s cer­tainly pos­si­ble given how hard he works; we never know un­til af­ter the fact.

But my pref­er­ence for Ewing was him land­ing his first coach­ing job in the NBA, where he toiled as an as­sis­tant for 15 years. And my pref­er­ence for the Hoyas was them hir­ing a suc­cess­ful, well-es­tab­lished coach to leave the Thomp­son era in the past — where it be­longs.

I un­der­stand the al­lure of reach­ing back to the glory days and at­tempt­ing to re­vive the old magic. We re­mem­ber how much fun it was then, the in­cred­i­ble sense of sat­is­fac­tion and ac­com­plish­ment. Ewing rep­re­sents a cor­ner­stone of that time pe­riod. He’s a fa­mil­iar face who stirs up warm-and-fuzzy mem­o­ries.

“My four years at Ge­orge­town were the best of my life,” Ewing said Mon­day in a state­ment. “Ge­orge­town is my home and 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.”

Fans of a cer­tain age can relate to the Hoya De­stroya and “best years of my life” in the same sen­tence.

I’m un­con­vinced that high school se­niors can do like­wise.

Ewing might turn out to be a great coach. But his No. 1 qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the Ge­orge­town job is the time he played at the school … more than three decades ago. Any other can­di­date who had the same re­sume but played at, say, Villanova or St. John’s, wouldn’t get a re­turn call af­ter in­quir­ing.

Speak­ing of St. John’s, the Red Storm pulled a sim­i­lar move two sea­sons ago when it hired Chris Mullin to be head coach. Like Ewing, Mullin was drafted in 1985 and spent his en­tire post-col­lege ca­reer in the NBA, ei­ther as a player, front-of­fice em­ployee or broad­caster. Un­like Ewing, Mullin had no ex­pe­ri­ence as a coach, not even an as­sis­tant, when St. John’s hired him in March 2015. He’s gone 22-43.

The move reeked of des­per­a­tion. To be fair, St. John’s felt a greater sense of ur­gency than Ge­orge­town. The Red Storm missed the NCAA tour­na­ment in 12 of 15 sea­sons prior to hir­ing Mullin. His alma mater had fallen so far, it had noth­ing to lose in tak­ing a flyer.

That’s not the case for Ge­orge­town, at least not yet. The Hoyas inar­guably are trend­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion. But they reached the tour­na­ment in eight of the 10 years be­fore back-to­back ab­sences led to JT3’s dis­missal.

Ewing wasn’t the first choice or maybe within the Top 5, for good rea­son. The Hoyas pre­ferred a sea­soned coach with mul­ti­ple trips to the NCAA tour­na­ment on his re­sume, coaches like Shaka Smart (Texas), Mike Brey (Notre Dame) or Chris Mack (Xavier). Coaches who know how to re­cruit mod­ern teenagers and nav­i­gate the dan­gers of so­cial me­dia, street agents and AAU in­ternecine feuds.

Af­ter fail­ing to land a A-list re­place­ment, the Hoyas should’ve com­mit­ted to find­ing an up-and-comer with NCAA ex­pe­ri­ence, maybe like 34-year-old Jamion Chris­tian (Mount St. Mary’s), who has reached the tour­na­ment twice in five sea­sons as a head coach. Or at least hire an as­sis­tant with re­cruit­ing chops for a suc­cess­ful NCAA pro­gram.

Per­haps as im­por­tant as ex­pe­ri­ence, non-Ewing can­di­dates pos­sessed another de­sir­able: A fresh start.

Family busi­nesses are not in­her­ently good or bad. Ev­ery­thing de­pends on who rises to power and how they per­form as chief ex­ec­u­tives. But when there’s no nat­u­ral heir ap­par­ent from within, it’s wise to look out­side. Ewing con­tin­ues the Thomp­son tree – from Big John to his as­sis­tant Craig Esh­er­ick to JT3 – when plant­ing new seeds prob­a­bly was a bet­ter op­tion for Ge­orge­town mov­ing for­ward from this point.

The hal­cyon days are long gone and there’s no guar­an­tee they’ll ever re­turn, not even for an alum as dec­o­rated and sto­ried and con­nected as Ewing. That’s not to say he can’t do it. I hope he does.

I just wish his first head coach­ing job was in the NBA and Ge­orge­town didn’t give its job to a first-time coach in Big John’s shadow.

● Brook­lyn-born and Howard-ed­u­cated, Deron Snyder writes his award­win­ning col­umn for The Washington Times on Tues­days and Thurs­days. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @DeronSny­der.

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