Washington, D.C.

Ewing takes over at Georgetown with shot of nostalgia, dose of reality

'Next year is going to be a rough year'
Patrick Ewing re-creates the photograph of when he signed as a player during a news conference at Georgetown.
Patrick Ewing re-creates the photograph of when he signed as a player during a news conference at Georgetown.

WASHINGTON – During his official introduction Wednesday morning as Georgetown men’s basketball coach, Patrick Ewing walked into a standing-room-only news conference as the school band chanted “Hoya Saxa.”

Sitting near a door to the event space in the freshly minted athletic center bearing his name was John Thompson Jr., the iconic former coach who built the Hoyas into a national power and for whom Ewing became the program’s most identifiable player.

The two won the national championship together in 1984, and the nostalgic tenor of the event included Ewing recreating the famous image of him holding a Georgetown pennant over his head when he announced in 1981 that he would attend the school.

Still, Ewing made certain to tread carefully when discussing the balance between maintaining the legacy Thompson forged during the 1980s with his own blueprint for rebuilding the program.

“There’s a rich tradition with Coach Thompson, and I’m not going to try to take anything away from that,” Ewing said. “Basketball itself has changed in the way it is run. In this day and age, especially in the NBA, they want a more free-flowing, up-tempo type game, and that’s the way I envision us playing.”

His different perspective on the game comes from 15 years as an NBA assistant before this, his first head coaching job at any level. Ewing, 54, also spent 17 years as a player in the NBA and was named an all-star 11 times. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

“What I found out during this process was that Patrick was not only prepared to coach and lead a program, but that he had his own distinct vision for where Georgetown basketball should go,” Athletic Director Lee Reed said. “Pat was not anointed here, nor given a pass through a process. He earned his opportunity the old-fashioned way, the only way he knows how. He earned it through hard work and preparation.”

Ewing said he addressed his players Tuesday, providing them with his initial thoughts about the direction of the program and the style of basketball they should expect. He also told the team he was aware certain players were considering leaving on the heels of multiple defections, including most recently junior guard L.J. Peak, who is entering the NBA draft.

Individual meetings with each player are scheduled in the coming days, Ewing said.

“He’s one of the best big men in NBA history,” the Hoyas’ Jessie Govan, a sophomore center with NBA aspirations, said of Ewing. “He’s a Hall of Famer. He’s got a lot of knowledge of the game. He’s won, so I’m excited to pick his brain and excited to see what he can teach me.”

Georgetown has only eight scholarship players, and Ewing stressed he would be exploring all avenues to fortify the roster, including graduate transfers and international additions. He also said a prime directive would be convincing coveted recruits from the Washington metropolitan area to remain local and play at Georgetown.

The Hoyas have just two regular members of the rotation from the District of Columbia area back next season in starting forward Marcus Derrickson, a native of Bowie, and reserve guard Tre Campbell, who played at St. John’s High.

“Next year is going to be a rough year,” Ewing said. “We want everybody to get out there and get any recruits. We’re behind the eight ball, so next year is a learning process, a growing process. Naturally we’re not going to try to schedule these super powers to abuse us like we’re the little sisters of the poor.”

Assembling a staff is among the other top priorities for Ewing, who said he is aiming to add assistants primarily with college experience to help him navigate not only the recruiting process but also NCAA compliance and other rules governing the sport.

Among those who attended the news conference included several current players as well as a handful of Ewing’s former teammates; agent David Falk, who represents Ewing and Thompson Jr., among other high-profile clients; and media personalities from national outlets, underscoring a buzz surrounding the program, at least for this day, uncommon during the Hoyas’ recent downturn.

Ewing replaced John Thompson III, the son of Thompson Jr. who was dismissed March 23 following 13 seasons, the last two with records below .500 for the first time since 1971-72 and 1972-73, Thompson Jr.’s first at Georgetown.

“I thought that they underachieved last year,” Ewing said. “They have enough talent that they should have done better.”

When change became imminent, school officials placed Ewing at the top of their list, according to people familiar with the search process headed by Paul Tagliabue, vice chair of Georgetown’s board of directors, and Reed.

Ewing, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1985 NBA draft and the league’s first lottery selection, revealed Wednesday he figured the position would go to another candidate.

“Any other university and the answer would be no, I’m going to stay in the NBA,” Ewing said. “But I just thought it was something that I needed to do.”

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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