From Georgetown to the NBA and back



The University of North Carolina surviving its championship game against Gonzaga University last Monday evening may not have been the most exciting news in college basketball.


Earlier that day, Georgetown University hired one of its most famous alumni, Patrick Ewing, to coach its men’s basketball team starting next season. Ewing’s hiring brings the end of the John Thompson coaching years and is intended to breathe life back into a Hoyas franchise that has disappointed in recent years. They have either consistently underperformed in the NCAA postseason or did not make it to the Big Dance at all.


Some may have misgivings about his success at Georgetown because he has zero coaching experience at the college level, but Ewing, a 17-year NBA veteran, brings a great deal to the table.


First and foremost, he knows what it means to be a Hoyas basketball player, to be a part of that winning Hoyas tradition. Under former coach John Thompson Jr., Ewing won the national championship in 1984 and was in the Final Four three out of four seasons.


Ewing told the Chicago Tribune on April 3, “My four years at Georgetown were the best of my life. 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.”


Ewing’s subsequent NBA career was met with similar success. He was drafted first overall by the New York Knicks in the 1985 NBA entry draft. He spent his first 15 seasons with the Knicks, which included a trip to the 1993 NBA finals. He was also a member of the first “Dream Team,” which won gold at the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona.


Additionally, after he retired in 2002, Ewing spent a decade and a half shadowing NBA coaches like Jeff and Stan Van Gundy. During that time, Ewing helped Stan Van Gundy coach the Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA finals. His most recent coaching stint was as assistant head coach to the Charlotte Hornets from 2013 to the present.


Of Ewing’s move to Georgetown, Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford said in a statement to USA Today on April 3, “This is a big loss for the Charlotte Hornets, but we are all excited for Patrick to have the opportunity to go back to Georgetown… He has attacked this profession with the same mentality he had as a player, with hard work, dedication and a passion for the game of basketball… We wish him the best of luck in the next chapter of his coaching career.”


After spending 15 years as a coach in the NBA, Ewing has witnessed the evolution of how basketball is played. Some were concerned he would try to coach the game he played in the ‘80s, but that is unlikely.


John J. DeGioia, Georgetown University president, told the Chicago Tribune in a phone interview April 3, “The game of basketball has gone through an extraordinary transformation. The game he played is not the game he’s coaching. The way the NBA is now played has required that he evolve as a coach. He’ll bring to us a level of preparation as a head coach that will be very, very important.”


Craig Esherick, a former Georgetown coach and now an associate professor of sports management at Mason, told Sports Illustrated on April 4 he thought Ewing was a good choice as head coach. He said, “I think it’s a legitimate discussion. But I also think he’s a quick study.” 


The next step for Ewing is to hire his coaching staff and get started on the college recruitment process. It will be interesting to see how he navigates the world of NCAA basketball for the first time since he graduated 32 years ago. Only time will tell how successful he will be, but his situation makes for an exciting ride.