Odds stacked against Ewing at Georgetown
Patrick Ewing’s tenure as head basketball coach at Georgetown University will be likely be considered successful if he has this resume — a 278-151 record over 13 seasons, eight NCAA appearances, three Big East titles and a Final Four.
For a guy who has never been a head coach anywhere, and has zero college coaching experience, that would be pretty good.
That was the resume of the coach Ewing replaced at Georgetown — John Thompson III.
Does anyone really think that Ewing — the legendary Hoya who went to three Final Fours under the father, John Thompson Jr. from 1981 to 1985 — is a better coach than JT3?
Why? Based on what?
There was this narrative that Ewing, after years as an assistant coach in the NBA, somehow was a victim in his quest to be a head coach in the league, after being passed over numerous times. He was interviewed for head coaching jobs in Detroit and Charlotte, so at least two different front offices didn’t believe was the right fit to be their head coach.
Ironically, it was John Thompson Jr. who supported that notion in a February 2015 interview with the Washington Post.
“He’s a smart player,” JT2 said. “He’s a great leader. But you very seldom hear intelligence associated
with height in the NBA or in college. Therefore, they think that the people who are thinking on the floor all the time are guards. Patrick is suffering from that.
“You know what I respect most of all about him? He didn’t just expect you to just bring him in,” JT2 said. “He deserves an opportunity to coach. It wasn’t like he took the lazy approach, because my name is so-and-so.”
I doubt if the father ever thought that glowing praise would wind up being for the replacement for his son at Georgetown.
But ESPN NBA reporter Brian Windhorst, appearing on “Mike and Mike,” had this to say last year when asked why Ewing couldn’t get an NBA head coaching job: “The people I’ve talked to aren’t sure that he completely is the head coaching material that people are looking for.
“Other people who’ve worked with Patrick say he should’ve been a head coach years ago. But there’s a stigma out there that he is not quite the greatest fit for a head coaching job. I’m trying to say that diplomatically, from what people have told me. He has gotten some interest before, but I don’t think he’s even in the top five for the Sacramento job.”
He may have been in the top five for the Georgetown job, but he reportedly wasn’t the first, second or third choice. You don’t need to hire a search firm to decide on hiring a legacy like Patrick Ewing at Georgetown. Various reports said that Texas coach Shaka Smart, Xavier’s Chris Mack and Notre Dame coach Mike Brey all turned down chances to interview for the job, while other targets were lukewarm at best at the prospect of being the Georgetown head basketball coach.
They did this despite the rich alumni, who forced JT3 out, putting the word out that money would not be a problem for the next Hoyas head coach.
Maybe because those coaches were smart enough to see that unless a Thompson is coaching at Georgetown, the Georgetown job is not really that great — a school with strict academic standards and no on campus arena.
Those are not selling points to young high school players with big dreams.
The Thompson name, in fact, may have been the best sales pitch for Georgetown.
If that lost its lustre, how will Ewing’s name — tied so close to the Thompson era of success more than three decades ago — be a stronger selling point?
If Patrick Ewing turns out to be a good head coach who can overcome the things that hurt recruiting at Georgetown, then the program may return to its once glorious heights. But if Ewing fails — and by failure I mean performing far worse than the coach he replaced — Georgetown basketball will disappear. Then the Hoya rich will realize it was not their program after all.