When I first became enamored with college basketball, I was a huge Georgetown Hoyas fan. I loved their frenetic style, the intimidation they brought to the floor and the presence and confidence they played with under John Thompson Jr.
No player exemplified Georgetown basketball during that era more than Patrick Ewing. Ewing was a looming presence at the center position who owned the interior while getting in the heads of his opponents with blocked shots and sheer presence. He was the one that helped define Hoya Paranoia.
Ewing was introduced last Wednesday as the next head coach of Georgetown with his former coach Thompson in attendance. He replaces Thompson’s son, who was fired after 13 seasons.
During his press conference, Ewing said that Georgetown was the only college job that he would take and I believe him. After all, it is his alma mater and Ewing helped shape the identity of Georgetown just as much as the school helped shape him as a young man.
Will Ewing be successful? Nobody can say for certain. One thing I do know is that he does deserve the opportunity that was afforded to him. Some may bring up Clyde Drexler as an argument against his appointment, however.
Drexler returned to his alma mater at Houston in 1998, compiled a 19-39 record and resigned after two seasons to spend more time with his family.
More recently, Chris Mullin returned to St. John’s to take over a struggling Red Storm program and has found the first two seasons to be a difficult road.
When a program decides to turn to a former great player to try and bring about change, success and old glory, it certainly grabs the headlines. At Ewing’s news conference, T-shirts were handed out that read “Home Sw33t Home.” But this is not about winning the news conference; it is about winning basketball games.
For Ewing, he has certainly paid his dues. He has been an assistant coach in the NBA for 14 seasons and he worked to understand the intricacies of being a head coach after working under Steve Clifford and Jeff Van Gundy.
He also was bound to pick up some coaching tips from some of the men he called coach, whether it was Van Gundy, Pat Riley or Hubie Brown.
Ewing was not the first choice for Georgetown. Reportedly, Xavier’s Chris Mack and Harvard’s Tommy Amaker were a couple of coaches that did not show much interest in the vacancy. Just because Ewing was not the first choice does not mean he will not turn out to be the right one.
Ewing is the greatest player in Georgetown history. He was a three-time All-American and helped propel the Hoyas to a national championship in 1985. He was looking for an opportunity to lead a team from the bench and his college alma mater has provided just that. He deserved and earned the opportunity that was afforded to him.
Certainly the college game is different than the pro game. Coaching and recruiting young basketball players can be a grind, but as long as he goes into this challenge completely aware of all the responsibilities now on his shoulders, then he is ahead of the game.
Will he bring about a revival of Georgetown basketball? As a longtime Knicks fan and Georgetown fan growing up, I am certainly rooting for him. I think it is great for the Big East, who is still searching for a national identity. It is great for Georgetown and it is great for Ewing.
Ewing won the news conference and is now handed the keys to run a basketball program that needs to win games on the scoreboard. He knows the challenge and needs a strong staff to help in the recruiting process. He did not love the media as a player and certainly can’t have a similar relationship with those covering the Hoyas as a head coach.
He deserved an opportunity in the NBA, which was never presented. But now he gets the opportunity on the college level.
The celebration is over and the hard work begins now, though. I am hoping that this homecoming results in the revitalization of Hoya Paranoia and success for Patrick in the job he finally deserves.