There was a time where it seemed like an inevitability that Patrick Ewing would become the head coach of an NBA team. He had long served as an assistant coach in Washington, Houston, Orlando, and Charlotte under some very well-known coaches and that, along with his strong resume as a player lead many to believe that he’d make a fine coach. But for some reason, the Knicks legend never got his chance until he took the head coaching job at his alma mater, Georgetown University, in 2017.
Once a power house that produced some of the best players in the game, Georgetown had become a middling shadow of what it used to be. NCAA Tournament appearances were becoming more scarce, sub-.500 seasons were becoming the norm and they lacked the hype that the elite recruiting schools like Kentucky and Duke had. But many thought that Ewing, with his coaching experience and star power, could attract better recruits and produce a winning basketball team. And things actually got off to a solid start. Despite coming off of a 14-18 season in which they went 5-13 in conference, Ewing lead the Hoyas to a 15-15 record in his first season as head coach. He then improved on that by going 19-14 in the following season.
For a short while, it seemed like Georgetown, off the back of it’s former star, was slowly becoming the glorious power house it once was. But Ewing was never able to make the jump after that. While he was able to lead the team to it’s first NCAA tournament in six years in 2021, they, a 23th seed, were knocked out in the first round by a 5th seed Colorado team. And continued to get worse after that. In the 21-22 campaign, instead of building off of Ewing’s first big dance appearance, the team went 6-25 and then followed it up by going 7-25 this season. And things were bad especially in conference. The Ewing-lead Hoyas went 0-19 in conference in the 21-22 season and went on to lose a Big East record 29 consecutive conference games at one point. Thursday evening, it was announced that Ewing would not be returning as the coach of the men’s basketball team next season.
Hours after Ewing was let go, head coach Tom Thibodeau, who was an assistant coach during Ewing’s final seasons and worked together in Houston, weighed in on the situation, saying, “It’s unfortunate, but Patrick is, in my eyes, he’s an all-time great, if not the greatest Knick of all time. And obviously working together with him, not only is he a great coach, he’s an even better person. So it’s disappointing,”
The Knicks’ coach went on to say, “The initial disappointment of not being there anymore, that’s normal human nature. But he’ll bounce back. I know how strongly he feels about the school, how much appreciation he has for the time that he was there. And he’ll still be involved with Georgetown. It’s a great school. He’ll move forward. He’ll be fine.”
While it wasn’t the best of times, it was still nice seeing the all-time Knicks great finally get a chance to be a head coach and do so at the university he cared so much about. Hopefully, whether it’s in college basketball or in the NBA, Ewing can get back to some kind of coaching at some point. And who knows, maybe this means we’ll get to see him around the Garden a bit more for now.