Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing has accepted a multiyear contract to return to Georgetown University as its head coach.
Ewing, the associate head coach with the Charlotte Hornets, will leave the NBA coaching staff immediately to begin hiring a staff, recruiting and working on rebuilding his alma mater’s program in the Big East Conference.
“It’s a big loss for us, but obviously we are all thrilled for Patrick to have this opportunity,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford told The Vertical on Monday afternoon.
“I think that he’s attacked the coaching profession in the same work manner that made him so successful as a player. He’s a nuts and bolts coach, detailed oriented and constantly looking for ways to make himself better. He’s going be a big loss here.”
The Hornets traveled to Washington on Sunday night in preparation for a Tuesday night game against the Washington Wizards, and Ewing had a face-to-face meeting with university officials after several days of phone conversations, sources said. A deal was struck in the early afternoon on Monday.
Ewing has dutifully studied the vastly different job requirements of running a college program, talking with, among others, college coaches who made the jump from professional basketball backgrounds, sources told The Vertical. He gathered information on potential assistant coaches, working to find a staff that’ll balance his inexperience in recruiting.
Those who have talked with Ewing in the past week believe that he’s fully understanding of the consuming nature of big-time college recruiting and prepared to immerse himself in it.
“Patrick has such great reverence for Coach [John] Thompson and all he did for him – as well as all the other coaches he played for and worked under,” Jeff Van Gundy told The Vertical. “But people would be underestimating Patrick if they felt he was going to try to completely emulate anyone else as a head coach. He’s going to be his own man.”
Ewing played for Van Gundy with the Knicks and served five seasons as an assistant coach under him with the Houston Rockets.
“Very few who have been a top-50 player of all time has ever invested more into a second career than Patrick has into coaching,” Van Gundy told The Vertical. “Because of that work ethic and his understanding of the craft, he’s not going into it alone. He’s going to work together with his staff and players and the coaches of players of prospective players. He’s going to be very inclusive. It’s going to serve him well.
“His personality has been misunderstood for so long that I can’t get wait for him to show the masses his humor and intelligence and his core values when it comes to leadership.”
John Thompson Jr., the Hall of Fame coach who recruited Ewing and turned the program into a national power, had been a strong proponent of Ewing’s candidacy and made his preference known to university officials, league sources said. Georgetown fired John Thompson III after the team missed the NCAA tournament in the final two seasons of his 13-year Hoyas tenure.
Ewing has been an NBA assistant coach for 15 seasons and has increasingly become a viable NBA head-coaching candidate. Ewing has regularly coached the Hornets’ summer league team. Ewing has been an assistant under Jeff and Stan Van Gundy and Clifford, and all had significant conversations with Georgetown officials and the Korn Ferry search firm about their belief in Ewing’s potential as a head coach, league sources told The Vertical.
Ewing, 54, has long been committed to pursuing an NBA head-coaching job and was close to getting the Sacramento Kings’ job in the spring. Only the sudden availability of Dave Joerger, whom Memphis fired, stood between Ewing and a formal offer, league sources said.
Ewing was a three-time All-American for the Hoyas and a 1984 national champion. As the No. 1 overall pick in the 1985 NBA draft by the New York Knicks, Ewing’s illustrious playing career is synonymous with the start and the ultimate height of the Hoyas dynasty.
Ewing has proven himself to be a tenacious worker and engaged tactician in the NBA as part of staffs with Clifford and the Van Gundys.
For Georgetown, Ewing’s candidacy represented the most opportunistic scenario to keep the school’s coaching job in the Hoyas family. Since John Thompson Jr.’s hiring in 1972, the program has had only three coaches – Thompson, Craig Esherick and John Thompson III.
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