Back at Georgetown, Patrick Ewing wouldn't mind some 'Hoya Paranoia'
Washington — Now that he's the team's coach, Patrick Ewing wants to figure out a way to return Georgetown basketball to the good ol' days.
All of that winning. All of that reputation.
"'Hoya Paranoia' was great," Ewing said during an interview as he prepares to make his sideline debut at his alma mater, with Georgetown hosting Jacksonville University on Sunday. "Everybody was against us. And I'd love to bring all of that back."
He punctuated that thought with his baritone chuckle.
Ewing's first job as a head coach at any level, after 15 years as an assistant in the NBA, comes with challenges at a school he led to the 1984 NCAA championship and two other title game appearances. He was a 7-foot-tall, shot-blocking center who would go on to star for the New York Knicks as the top prize in the league's first draft lottery.
"As successful as I was as a player," Ewing said, "that's how successful I want to be as a coach."
That's no small task, considering the long-ago highs of the program under coach John Thompson Jr. and the recent lows under his son, John Thompson III, called JT3 by most.
During Ewing's four years playing for Big John, as the elder Thompson is known around these parts, Georgetown went a combined 121-23, a winning percentage of .840. What's more, the Hoyas rose to national prominence as much for their play on the court as their coach's persona off it and rules such as not allowing freshmen to speak to the media during their first semester on campus.
Back then, Georgetown basketball mattered, something that hasn't really been the case lately.
"Everyone was wearing the Georgetown Starter jacket, from the East Coast to the West Coast. People in the movies was wearing it. Enrollment spiked. When the team is successful, the university is successful," Ewing said. "So I think all that showed how dominant we were."
That was then. Now, he inherits a team that went 29-36, a .446 winning percentage, over the past two years under the younger Thompson, who was fired after 13 seasons.
In the decade since JT3's lone trip to the Final Four in 2007, the Hoyas have won a grand total of three NCAA Tournament games. They also accumulated one surprising loss to a much-lower-seeded team after another.
The Hoyas' 14-18 record last season included six consecutive losses at the end and was the team's worst since the 1950s.
So outside of Georgetown, expectations are rather low at the moment: Big East Conference coaches voted the Hoyas to finish ninth in the 10-team league. Ewing acknowledged that his non-conference schedule — Jacksonville, for example, is an ASUN Conference school that last was involved in March Madness 31 years ago — is quite purposely soft.
"My guys are coming off two poor years," he said, "and it's my job to mend their egos and get them to believe in themselves again."
Those players are familiar, of course, with their new coach's past.
"Greatness," senior guard Jonathan Mulmore said simply.
"NBA top 50 player of all time. Hall of Famer," junior center Jessie Govan said.
"I'm a big Knicks fan, so my father told me about Coach Ewing. Obviously I wasn't alive or around to see him play," sophomore guard Jagan Mosely said. "But just knowing he's coached in the league for 15 years means all of us can be sponges, because I think that's all of our goals one day. But we're focused on the goal right now — to just win games and be great."
Ewing would love if that winds up being the case.
Because he is well aware that, in this new job at an old haunt, he will be judged on one basis.
"If I don't win, people could call me 'the greatest Hoya ever,' but as you know, if I don't win, there will be another coach here, sooner or later," Ewing said. "Every coach knows, as soon as ... you dot the I's and cross the T's, the writing's on the wall. At some point in your career, you're going to be let go. That's just life in coaching."
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