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Ball Don't Lie

The NBA Coaching Carousel, Vol. 3: The Ewing family drama

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Patrick Ewing and John Starks take in a playoff game as half of Louis CK looks on (Getty Images)

Basketball Hall of Famer and longtime Wizards, Magic and Rockets assistant coach Patrick Ewing is back in the NBA, working as the newly-minted associate head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats. Ewing will run the team alongside head coach Steve Clifford as team owner Michael Jordan continues a long and frustrating rebuilding project with the long-suffering squad. The former Knick center, who was out of the NBA last season, has for just as long coveted a head coaching gig at this level, but he seems to have overcome his particular low point in this realm from last summer, when he turned down a job with the D-League’s Erie BayHawks last season so as not to slum as a minor league coach.

All seemed to be going fine for Patrick, until news hit about Jason Kidd’s surprising candidacy and then hiring as Brooklyn Nets head coach. Kidd, who had retired from the game just days before moving up the Nets’ list, has absolutely no coaching experience, and now he’ll be running a team that plays in the city that Ewing once routinely drove into the playoffs. Ewing, and son Patrick Ewing Jr. (a former New Orleans Pelican and NBA hopeful), were more than a little taken aback.

[Related: Jason Kidd was the best choice for Nets]

Here’s what the younger Ewing wrote on Twitter on Wednesday and Thursday:

Ewing Jr. isn’t putting down the D-League, as the former Georgetown product was a D-League All-Star in 2011 before taking his game overseas. And as he states, this isn’t a slam at Jason Kidd.

It’s just a bit … sudden.

Ewing appeared on The Dan Patrick Show on Thursday to discuss the Brooklyn hire:

(And for those that can’t play the clip while at work …)

Ewing said he was surprised that Jason Kidd got a head-coaching job so quickly. “I was very surprised they gave it to him so early,” Ewing said. “I wish him well and nothing but success. … I was very shocked.”

Stigma runs deep, here. Ex-players that turn to the assistant coaching ranks tend to be labeled as a helper and nothing more at this level, which is a shame because working one’s way up the assistant ranks as a player should be no different from working your way up after a career spent in the video and scouting department. And yet there are scores of ex-players who have long bounced from assistant job to assistant job that just can’t find their way toward major consideration for the top job with an NBA team.

Patrick Ewing, by all accounts, did things the orthodox way in working as an assistant coach for a decade. The right way, though I still think he should have attempted to prove his head coaching mettle in the D-League, and yet it’s taken this long for him just to grab an associate head coaching spot. One that comes with the (incorrect, we should note, as Sacramento also tried to hire Ewing) taint of having his pal in MJ hand him the gig.

Ewing hasn’t been handed anything. He was well-regarded in assistant stints in Washington, Orlando and Houston, and his work as a player was strong enough to land him in the Hall of Fame.

Time will tell, with Kidd. And you know Ewing, and his kid, will be watching the rookie coach’s first year with a set of furrowed brows.

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