Patrick Ewing is one of the most disrespected NBA Hall of Famers of All-Time. Like popping Ambien with a shot of Hennessy at 2:00 a.m., his skills and accomplishments are perpetually slept on.
Now, after decades of toiling away as an assistant coach in the National Basketball Association, Ewing has landed a dream job as the head basketball coach for the Georgetown Hoyas Mens Basketball team.
Once upon a time, the Hoyas were consistently ranked among the top programs in the country. However, after years of underachieving under John Thompson III and Craig Esherick, the school yearns to recall some of the clout and success it enjoyed under Ewings former coach and mentor, Big John Thompson II.
Tonight, Ewing will appear on HBOs Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel in one of his first nationally televised interviews since being named the head coach at Georgetown.
With the start of a new basketball season approaching for Georgetown, Bryant Gumbel talks with Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Famer and new head coach of the Hoyas. Although Ewing is excited to take on the new role, some are skeptical.
BRYANT GUMBEL: What role did this place have in dictating the guy you are today?
PATRICK EWING: It played a lot. It has always been a part of me. I remember Graduation Day. Graduation was right out here on the lawn. I remember me in my cap and gown. I came here a boy and I left a man.
Although he hasnt coached since 1999, Big John Thompson is still a big man on campus down in Georgetown. So much so that his word carries more cache than an American Express black card. It was at his request that Ewing was brought in after John Thompson III recorded two consecutive losing seasons at the helm.
15 years after a playing career that saw him win an NCAA Championship in 1984, two Olympic gold medals (1984, 1992), named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history and twice inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, Ewing is on to the next phase of a career that had languished considerably when you consider hes an all-time great who was passed over consistently in favor of individuals with less coaching experience.
PATRICK EWING: Big John gave me a call and, you know, say, you know, “You should– you should try to get that job.” And– I was shocked, you know–
BRYANT GUMBEL: Why? Why shocked?
PATRICK EWING: Well, you know, that’s his son. His son just was fired. And I say, Coach are you sure? And he said, Yes, you know I’m very– very sure.
Take a look at Patrick Ewing’s New York Knicks highlights. Thank you for watching. Please subscribe. Music: Two Steps From Hell – Black Blade
Back when Ewing was trying to lead the Bomb Squad version of the New York Knicks past Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the early ’90s, his fanbase would eventually become irate over the Knicks inability to overcome the Bulls, both with and without MJ. If were making a career out of what ifs, Patrick Ewing would have at least one championship ring if it were not for Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
Winning in New York makes one a legend, but losing in New York after coming so close on many occasions imbued him with a unique stench of one with tremendous talent that couldnt get the job done.
Now, after 15 years as an assistant coach in the NBA for the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets, Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic, Ewing has been entrusted with an entire program.
JOHN THOMPSON: Patrick paid a price. You know, a price for which I respect him. He went for 14 years. Patrick Ewing, one of the top 50 players, being somebodys assistant. You tell me what superstar has done what he did.
BRYANT GUMBEL: I get it, but he’s a guy who had his heart set on being an NBA head coach. And as he freely admits, had never even considered coachin’ in college. So somebody had to have said, Hey, look, look at it this way.
JOHN THOMPSON: Bryant it’s a far difference between what a person dreams he wants to do, and what he’s capable of doin’, and what people permit him to do.
BRYANT GUMBEL: You never did get an offer, which is kind of amazing in hindsight. Why not?
PATRICK EWING: You know, I’ve been asked that question for a lotta years. And I really never had a answer.
MadeAtMSG Moment (1984) – Tournament MVP Patrick Ewing & Georgetown defeated Syracuse in overtime 82-71.
BRYANT GUMBEL: You saw players with no coaching experience like Jason Kidd, Steve Kerr, Derek Fisher gettin’ a job. You– if I’m Patrick Ewing, I gotta sit back and go, What’s the matter– what’s the matter with me?
PATRICK EWING: You think that. You know, you think that. You know,… sometimes I thought it might have been just me.
During the interview, Bryant mentions a statistic that could lead one to believe Ewing was being discriminated against due to his size. Of the former NBA players who eventually became head coaches, only 15 of them (6 percent) were centers. Big John followed that up.
JOHN THOMPSON: If I were to ask you right now to name the guys that are 6’10” that have ever coached as a head coach in the NBA in college, and you’re not gonna find many of ’em. Because the stereotype comes into it. The little guard is the thinker. He’s– he’s the general. The 6’10” is the big dummy rebounder. Jabbar, Shaq, if you go through most of these guys, Sampson, none of these guys coach.
Measuring acumen and intelligence in a diverse society requires a measuring stick capable of quantifying multiple dimensions. Yep, easier said than done, admittedly. Though common markers of intelligence are looked upon as indicators of ability. However, Ewings experience, like that of Big John, goes beyond Xs and Os and directly to the crux of what it is to be a successful young black man in America — no matter the game.