Patrick Ewing And The Success Of Black Male Role Models 

Ewing looks to duplicate the role Thompson played in his life.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Nearly 36 years after a tall, lanky freshman stepped onto the court at Georgetown University and changed college basketball forever, history repeated itself when it was announced that Hoya legend, Patrick Ewing, would be returning to his alma mater as head coach of the men’s basketball team.

Coming from Kingston, Jamaica, Patrick Aloysius Ewing ended up in Massachusetts, playing high school basketball at Cambridge Rindge and Latin. While soccer and track were the traditional sports of Jamaica, Ewing’s height led to an almost natural, yet seemingly mandatory, transition to basketball where his domination in high school had colleges salivating at the chance of signing him.

In the hunt were names such as North Carolina, Boston College and Georgetown. And while the recruiting game wasn’t as complex and financially twisted and perverted as it is now, the college recruitment of Ewing was a huge story in the world of college basketball. Discussions were had, rumors spread and schools, coaches and fans anxiously awaited his decision. Would he play for Dean Smith at UNC, stay local at BC or make a cross country trip to UCLA to play for Larry Brown.

“I’ve always thought Georgetown would be in the lead,” UCLA Coach Larry Brown said a few months before the decision. “I cant really say why, except because of my feelings for John (Georgetown Coach John Thompson), Mike and Patrick….I think this (UCLA) is a great place for him. But right from the start, I thought he’d stay close to home.”

His eventual decision to play for the Hoyas revolved around a few factors, which Ewing explained to Michael Wilbon in an interview after enrolling at the University.

“I chose Georgetown because of the opportunity it will give me to get an education and play basketball,” Ewing said.

While those two reasons are extremely important, and should be the reason why student athletes select a school (in an ideal, non-money driven, alternate world of college sports, of course), there was another major factor in Ewing’s decision which is not acknowledged enough, yet which needs to be.

The Black male role model.

Image title

According to Christian Edward Gale’s 2007 theoretical study, “by providing African American male adolescents with role models who are successful members of their own black community, and who have experienced many of the same difficulties that the adolescents are presently faced with, there is a far greater chance that the addition and presence of role models in their lives will have positive results.”

Ewing was coached in high school by Mike Jarvis, a smiling yet no nonsense Black man who would go on to have a successful college coaching career at schools such as Boston University, George Washington and St. John’s. He helped control and limit the media circus surrounding Ewing in high school, especially when the taunting became personal and racist. Jarvis helped him mentally prepare for the vicious reception he would receive at gyms in both Massachusetts and across the Big East landscape.

”You know how cruel kids can be at 11, 12, 13,” said Mike Jarvis. ”I told him that one day they’d be buying tickets to watch him play.”

Ewing dominated the high school hardwood but also remained focused on his education, thanks to his parents who placed a strong emphasis on hard work and education. Although it’s a running joke about Jamaicans having multiple jobs, there is no doubting the work ethic and belief in education instilled in the children of Jamaican parents.

I should know; my Mother outworked everyone in her profession, pursued her education and made sure those same values carried over to her sons. Sports was a distant fifth behind work, school, more work and more school.

The result of that home training and hard work for Ewing was a full ride to Georgetown, a bachelor of arts degree in fine arts, and during those four years, the opportunity to play for, and learn from, John Thompson.

Coach Thompson was a star player in high school in Washington DC and continued that success as an All-American player for Providence College. In 1972, he returned to the DC area as the head coach of the Georgetown Hoyas. Over the span of 27 years, he not only became the first African-American head coach to win a National Championship, he also, most importantly, became a father figure and mentor for so many of the young Black men who succeeded and thrived under his guidance.

Image title

His success as a role model did not solely reside in his coaching prowess or physical size. Those were secondary to the fact that Thompson could associate with the players under his tutelage; he was from an urban area, he played college basketball, he experienced racism in his career and he recognized and removed negative influences surrounding his players.

Coach Thompson was an overshadowing presence who would never be intimidated. He recruited kids that many would avoid because they were misunderstood. He worked with kids that many didn’t know how to approach. He mentored kids that many ridiculed and who others would view as a commodity instead of a boy who needed molding and guidance.

He was a strong Black male role model who remained loyal to the boys who became men. He went face-to-face with DC drug lord Rayful Edmond III when he got too close to his players. He walked off the court in protest over Prop 48.

Later on, it wasn’t uncommon to see him in the seats at MSG when Ewing played for the Knicks. He was an earlier version of Richard Williams and LaVar Ball, using his size and unapologetic nature to fight for his players and for the rights of those who he felt was being exploited – a father who kept his child close so he could help him forge his own path to success.

But when it came to Patrick Ewing, John Thompson’s presence, influence and role in his life could never be denied. It’s a manifestation of the importance, and success, of Black male role models, a factor which isn’t exemplified enough in today’s society.

“Now, more than ever,” said Dr. Shauna M. Cooper, “it is time to re-frame this discussion toward a strengths based and socially embedded perspective on African-American father involvement and engagement.”

And what better way to do that than reflect on a new head coach who can attribute much of his success to the lessons taught by the Black male role models in his life.

Ewing was coached and protected by his high school coach, Mike Jarvis. He matured, learned and grew under Thompson. And now, over 35 years after he first stepped on to Georgetown’s campus as its greatest recruit, Coach Ewing has the opportunity to return the love and life lessons learned under the watchful and protective eyes of Black role models.

Image title

There are many sayings and proverbs such as “You can’t be a man unless you see a man”, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes” which describe both life and manhood.

But when it comes to Black men, sometimes it’s hard to visualize future success when you don’t see people who look like you in those positions. Sometimes Black men feel that they don’t need a mentor, because they know it all or they’re too proud or embarrassed at the thought of taking life lessons from another man.

But that’s why Black male role models are so overwhelmingly crucial. They break through the egotistical wall which sometimes hinders men of color and enables them to see life through a different lens, one which has been crafted by men who have experienced the harsh realities of life and can relate to, and communicate with, those presently going through it.

If this population is going to break free from the bonds of their past experiences, more African American male role models need to be identified and incorporated into the lives of these youth. It is important to have young black males see that success is possible, despite all the adversities that they are faced with daily. It is imperative that this type of opportunity continues to grow and be implemented in schools and institutions throughout the U.S. Without the help and support of adults to encourage, empower and to show that black males can be successful, then the concept that African American male adolescents are an endangered species will come true, and this country will be responsible for failing them. – Christian Edward Gale


On Wednesday afternoon, Patrick Ewing will officially be named as the new head coach of Georgetown University, a position once held by his mentor, John Thompson, and Thompson’s son, John Thompson III. Thompson was not afraid, or hesitant, to support those who others wouldn’t, and now Ewing has the same opportunity presented to him. It’s his turn to give back what was given to him, and as a Black male role model in an influential position, he has the responsibility to do just that so that the cycle that was started in 1981 can continue.

Hopefully he remembers the words of Booker T. Washington, who said “There are two ways to demonstrate your strength. One is to push others down, the other is to pull others up.”

As the Hoyas new head coach, he can act on the latter.


Related Articles


  1. Howdy would you mind letting me know which web host you’re working with? I’ve loaded your blog in 3 different web browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot quicker then most. Can you recommend a good internet hosting provider at a fair price? Many thanks, I appreciate it!

  2. Hiya, I’m really glad I’ve found this info. Nowadays bloggers publish just about gossip and internet stuff and this is really annoying. A good website with exciting content, that’s what I need. Thanks for making this web-site, and I will be visiting again. Do you do newsletters by email?

  3. Thank you for every other magnificent post. Where else may anybody get that kind of info in such an ideal means of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week, and I’m on the search for such info.

  4. What’s Taking place i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve discovered It positively useful and it has aided me out loads. I’m hoping to contribute & assist different users like its aided me. Great job.

  5. Hi, Neat post. There is an issue along with your site in web explorer, may test this?K IE still is the marketplace chief and a good section of other people will leave out your excellent writing because of this problem.

  6. I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one these days..

  7. An impressive share, I simply given this onto a colleague who was doing a bit of evaluation on this. And he in reality purchased me breakfast as a result of I discovered it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the deal with! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to debate this, I really feel strongly about it and love studying more on this topic. If doable, as you change into expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It’s highly useful for me. Big thumb up for this weblog submit!

  8. Hey there, I think your blog might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog site in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, terrific blog!

  9. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like that just before. So nice to find somebody by incorporating original applying for grants this subject. realy we appreciate you starting this up. this web site are some things that is required on the internet, a person after some originality. helpful task for bringing interesting things on the internet!

  10. Good – I should certainly pronounce, impressed with your website. I had no trouble navigating through all tabs as well as related information ended up being truly easy to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it in the least. Quite unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or anything, web site theme . a tones way for your client to communicate. Nice task.

  11. Hi there. I found your blog by means of Google at the same time as looking for a comparable matter, your website got here up. It appears good. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks to come back then.

  12. I like what you guys are up too. Such intelligent work and reporting! Keep up the excellent works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my website 🙂

  13. Great ?V I should definitely pronounce, impressed with your web site. I had no trouble navigating through all the tabs and related info ended up being truly easy to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it at all. Quite unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or something, site theme . a tones way for your client to communicate. Excellent task..

  14. Great goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you’re just too excellent. I actually like what you have acquired here, really like what you are stating and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it smart. I cant wait to read much more from you. This is actually a great site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker