WASHINGTON — Patrick Ewing, Georgetown’s new basketball coach, and John Thompson Jr., Ewing’s coach with the Hoyas all those decades ago, greeted each other with a bear hug.
“Great job,” Thompson said softly. “Great job.”
This reunion of sorts took place Wednesday, steps from a glass case displaying the NCAA Tournament trophy the two men helped earn, and moments after Georgetown’s president and its athletic director held a news conference to formally introduce Ewing. He pronounced himself ready to “rebuild” the Hoyas after they “underachieved last year” under his predecessor — who just so happens to be Thompson’s son.
“Had a few down years, and they decided to make change,” Ewing said. “It’s a new era now.”
And yet this hiring was, in many ways, about continuing a long-standing connection to the older Thompson and Georgetown’s heyday, when Ewing was the 7-foot, shot-blocking center on the 1984 national championship team and made two other runs to the title game.
“The bedrock foundation that this program was built on is John Thompson Jr. For us to walk away from a strength, a pillar, of not only this basketball program but this university, to me, would be foolish,” AD Lee Reed said. “At the same time, Patrick is his own man.”
The links to the past were unmistakable Wednesday.
The setting was the recently opened John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletic Center, where visitors are greeted by a bronze statue of the former coach, mouth somewhere between a scowl and a smile, towel slung over his right shoulder. Ewing even paid a winking homage to that accessory, slinging a white towel over his shoulder during the news conference.
Gray T-shirts reading “Home Sw33t Home,” a reference to Ewing’s jersey number, were distributed.
Ewing held a Georgetown pennant overhead, copying his pose from when he announced, as a highly sought-after recruit, that he would attend Georgetown out of high school.
And Big John — as Georgetown’s coach from 1972-99, and Ewing’s mentor, is called by many — attended the proceedings.
“His vision, his hard work, his dedication, has helped to lift the program to where it’s gotten,” Ewing said. “And it’s my job to add on to that legacy.”
John Thompson III was fired two weeks ago after 13 seasons, one Final Four appearance, and just one trip the Big Dance in the past four years.
Ewing’s own son, Patrick Jr., was on the younger Thompson’s staff but will not be allowed to work for his father.
“I know other places have had (a) family member on staff, but unfortunately because of the nepotism clause that they had here, I’m not going to be able to bring him on,” Ewing said.
Reed said Ewing accepted that policy and noted: “JT3 never reported to his father. He reported to me.”
This is Ewing’s first college coaching job and first as a head coach at any level, after 15 years as an assistant in the NBA, most recently with the Charlotte Hornets. He inherits a roster that is short on scholarship players.
“Next year,” he said, “is going to be a rough year.”
Ewing intends to run a team “similar to the style that we play in the NBA — I want it to be up-tempo, push the ball, shoot 3s when you have them.” He wants to see his team — and the Big East as a whole — return “to the way it was. No one liked us. ‘Hoya Paranoia.’ Smacking people down.”
He acknowledged recruiting will be something new to him and challenging. Ewing noted he hopes to attract more players from D.C., Baltimore and Virginia.
“All about going out and selling your program,” Ewing called it, “and I think that I’m a great salesman.”
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