WASHINGTON (AP) — Patrick Ewing led Georgetown to the pinnacle of college basketball, then had a Hall of Fame career in the NBA. His first game back at his alma mater as coach, though, provided him an entirely new experience.
“As a player, I never really got nervous,” Ewing said. “As a coach, I got nervous. The biggest difference is I’m counting on these guys. As a player, I’m counting on myself.”
Cheered loudly in his return to Georgetown, Ewing led the Hoyas to a 73-57 win over Jacksonville on Sunday in his sideline debut.
With playing rival Michael Jordan and fellow Georgetown alumni Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Otto Porter Jr. in the arena, along with his former New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, Ewing began his first head coaching job at any level.
“I had a lot of friends here,” Ewing said. “It meant a lot to me, too, because they showed up to support me.”
It also was a sign of how deep Ewing’s influence runs at his alma mater more than three decades since he last played for the Hoyas.
“I always tell people I would not have been in the NBA if it wasn’t for Patrick Ewing,” Mutombo said. “He took Alonzo Mourning and I and told us what it takes to get to the next level. I told him I’m one phone call away. If I have to jump on a flight to D.C., I’ll be here.”
Spectators cheered when Ewing walked onto the floor for the first time, about 10 minutes before the opening tipoff. Moments later, Ewing was given an ovation when the spotlight fell on him as he was introduced after the Hoyas’ starters.
Jessie Govan led the way for the Hoyas (1-0) with 20 points and 15 rebounds, while Marcus Derrickson also scored 20.
“The whole team really wanted to get a win in his first game,” Govan said. “That was a real big goal of ours.”
JD Notae had 18 points for Jacksonville (0-2).
Ewing is the Hoyas’ career rebounding and blocks leader and ranks second in points. He led Georgetown to three Final Four appearances and the 1984 national championship under coach John Thompson Jr.
Thompson’s son, John Thompson III, was fired after consecutive losing seasons, the school’s first such skid since enduring three in a row in the early 1970s.
After his playing career, Ewing was an assistant coach in the NBA for 15 years, including a stint on Van Gundy’s staff in Houston.
“I think the biggest thing is you have to find your voice,” Van Gundy said. “He’s got his voice. He’s very commanding and demanding. The thing I think that is so critical is you can be demanding, but you have to be incredibly personable, which he is. . He’s very comfortable with who he is, and that’s a big step.”
Jacksonville: The Dolphins completed a rough opening weekend that began with a 96-67 loss to UAB. They won’t face a high-major foe again until Dec. 22 at N.C. State. “I think it’s going to juice our practices a little bit because we’ve gone out and seen what the world has to offer,” Jacksonville coach Tony Jasick said.
Georgetown: The Hoyas held Jacksonville to 32.7 percent shooting, including just 23.3 percent in the first half. “We understand it’s the first game, but the way they’re playing, it’s just taking me back to the ’80s and ’90s when the old man (Thompson Jr.) was here,” Mutombo said.
Jacksonville: The Dolphins meet North Carolina A&T in their home opener on Saturday.
Georgetown: The Hoyas continue their season-opening three-game homestand as Mount St. Mary’s visits Wednesday.