WASHINGTON – Before coaching his first game at Georgetown – indeed, his first game as a head coach at any level of basketball – Patrick Ewing acknowledged that his tenure would be judged on one basis: his record.
“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 in 2017. “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.”
Ewing’s time as coach of the Hoyas came to an end on Thursday, when he was fired after going 75-109 over six seasons at the school he led to an NCAA championship as a player in the early 1980s.
In a statement included with the news release about the change, school president Jack DeGioia called Ewing “the heart of Georgetown basketball” and described him as “tireless in his dedication to his team and the young men he coached.”
Ewing, meanwhile, thanked DeGioia “for giving me the opportunity to achieve my ambition to be a head basketball coach” and added: “I wish the program nothing but success. I will always be a Hoya.”
His last game was an 80-48 loss to Villanova on Wednesday night in the first round of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, the arena where Ewing was a star for the NBA’s New York Knicks for so many years.
Georgetown went 7-25 this season, including 2-18 in regular-season conference play, a schedule capped by a 40-point loss to Creighton. Ewing presided over a 29-game Big East losing streak that began in March 2021 and ended this January, the most consecutive defeats in league history.
The past two seasons were particularly poor: The Hoyas won a combined 13 games while losing 50, a winning percentage of .206.
Ewing’s tenure included only one winning season, zero victories in March Madness and just one appearance in the NCAA Tournament. It’s a far cry from the sort of success Georgetown enjoyed when the 7-foot Ewing patrolled the paint as an intimidating, shot-blocking force at center decades ago.
During his four years in uniform under coach John Thompson Jr., Georgetown went 121-23, won the 1984 NCAA title and appeared in the championship game two other times. Ewing went on to become the No. 1 overall pick following the NBA’s first draft lottery and starred as a pro, mainly for the Knicks.
“As successful as I was as a player,” Ewing said when he was hired to succeed Thompson’s son, John III, as the coach of the Hoyas after 15 years as an assistant in the NBA, “that’s how successful I want to be as a coach.”
Did not work out that way. Not even close.
He began, promisingly enough, by going 8-0. What followed was a harbinger of what was to come: Georgetown faded to 15-15 that season, a first-round loss in the Big East tournament and no postseason invitation.
During Ewing’s time in charge, a wave of transfers carried talent away from Georgetown, while strong defense – a hallmark of his teams when he was on the court – was rare.
The unquestioned highlight of his return to the Hilltop was the 2021 conference tournament at his old stomping grounds of MSG. The Hoyas surprisingly reeled off four victories in a four-day span to earn that title and the automatic NCAA berth that came with it; they were bounced by Colorado by 23 points in their opening game of the Big Dance.
A year later, with Georgetown on the way to sinking to 6-25 – breaking a mark that had stood for a half-century and setting a school record for most men’s hoops losses in a season, which was replicated this season – athletic director Lee Reed offered a public show of support for Ewing.
During last offseason, all three of Ewing’s assistant coaches were replaced and several new players were brought in, but that did not help matters. And speculation about Ewing’s future that already was whirring only grew louder as this season fell apart.
In January, Reed responded to a request for an interview by issuing a statement to The Associated Press that called Ewing’s stint a “challenging and frustrating time.” Reed also said then that Ewing “understands that it is imperative to get the program back on track.”
Hours later, with DeGioia in attendance, the Hoyas lost to Villanova, their record-setting 25th Big East setback in a row.
“My future is my future,” Ewing said after that defeat. “I’ll be the head coach at Georgetown until the president or the board decides for me to move on. … You know, a friend of mine sent me a quote today: ‘It’s not how many times you get knocked down; it’s how many times you get up.’ We got knocked down, so all we’re going to do is keep on getting up.”
Another loss to the Wildcats would become Ewing’s last game at his alma mater. Less than 24 hours later, Reed announced: “We will immediately launch a national search for our next coach.”