Patrick Ewing (COL ’85) needs no introduction to Georgetown basketball fans. A member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Ewing is widely viewed as the greatest player in both Georgetown Hoyas and New York Knicks history. However, it seems that many fans and media members, including Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel and CBS’s Matt Norlander, consider this somewhat of a controversial hire.
There are valid concerns and risks associated with Ewing as college head coach. He has never coached any college teams, does not have experience as a head coach at any level and could be viewed as another extension of the Thompson family tree at Georgetown having played under John Thompson Jr. from 1982-85.
However, Ewing has great potential as a coach, and he can bring the program back to national prominence and generate excitement due to his historic college and NBA careers.
Some fans share the concern of Ewing’s personal relations with the Thompson family. After John Thompson III’s tenure on the Hilltop ended, this might seem like a natural opportunity to reduce John Thompson Jr.’s role in the program and move away from the Thompson era. However, Ewing’s personal relationship with Thompson Jr. indicates that the program is going in the opposite direction and doubling down on the Thompson lineage.
However, suggesting that hiring Ewing is just another way to keep the program in the Thompson family is an insult to his qualifications. Ewing played in the NBA for 17 seasons and has been an assistant coach in the league for 15 more seasons, working alongside some of the brightest minds in the sport, including Jeff Van Gundy, Stan Van Gundy, Steve Clifford and Tom Thibodeau.
His role has increased over time to the point where he is now the Associate Head Coach for the Charlotte Hornets and has been considered for a variety of NBA head coaching positions, including with the Detroit Pistons in 2011 and the Charlotte Bobcats in 2012. Ewing has received several positive reviews from his NBA coaching colleagues, former rivals and current players for his coaching ability and work ethic.
Although we have not seen Ewing’s performance as a head coach yet, his NBA record indicates that he will run a modern, up-tempo, pro-style offense. On the defensive end, Ewing was one of the greatest paint protectors and shot blockers of all time, and helped develop Dwight Howard into a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year during his time with the Orlando Magic.
On the court, I would expect Ewing to be a progressive coach, rather than an archaic relic of the past. Instead of a member of the Thompson coaching tree he is a member of the Van Gundy coaching tree, different in both philosophy and strategy.
For a coach who has no experience in the college game, recruiting is another major concern. Ewing has no experience convincing teenagers to come play for his team, a definite hole in his resume as a potential college coach.
However, according to a report from The Vertical, Ewing has already identified this weakness and has set out to field an elite coaching staff that can help him with the day-to-day aspects of running the program, including recruiting.
In the meantime, Ewing has a number of advantages over any other college coach. As someone who has been involved in the league for over three decades, Ewing knows what it takes to make it in the league better than anyone, and could potentially convey that knowledge to recruits. In addition, Ewing’s name value certainly has the potential to open a few doors and at least pique the interest of many high school players and coaches.
Another concern that some fans have expressed is that Ewing will take the first opportunity he gets to leave Georgetown and fulfill his dream of becoming an NBA head coach. However, I believe that Ewing loves the school too much to use it as a stepping stone — he donated $3.3 million toward the Thompson Athletic Center — and said he would not take the job unless he wanted to truly commit to it.
There are very real concerns regarding Ewing’s inexperience and connections to Georgetown’s past. There is no guarantee that he will succeed as the new coach of the Hoyas. However, there are also strong indications that he has great potential to turn the program around both on and off the court.
Patrick Ewing is a big name, but he is more than just a name. He has worked tirelessly to earn an opportunity, and now that Georgetown has given him one, the least the fans can do is give him an opportunity to prove himself.
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