The Patrick Ewing coaching ability questions can stop now

The Patrick Ewing coaching ability questions can stop now

The truth is, he is every bit as good at this job as you would expect him to be. Patrick Ewing didn’t choose coaching as a lark, he selected it as a second career. He logged 15 years as an assistant coach in the NBA. He assisted Doug Collins in Washington, and both Van Gundy brothers, and Steve Clifford in Charlotte.

“This is one of the best players in the history of the sport,” Jeff Van Gundy said a few years ago, addressing a topic that, over time, had become something of a Moby Dick obsession for him: Why hadn’t anyone hired Patrick to be a head coach? “And he’s never once taken one of these jobs asking for anything other than a chance to work, a chance to learn, a chance to get better.”

Van Gundy sighed.

“I mean, somebody hired me twice,” he said, laughing. “Don’t you think a guy like that might have something to give?”

Ewing proved that this season, which ended with an 88-77 loss to St. John’s in the first round of the Big East Tournament Wednesday at the place where we first got to know him. The cheers for him this time were a lot more muted than the first time he’d walked on the court back in January. Call it audible respect.

His team finishes the season 15-15 and waits for a possible call from the NIT. Ewing was a little reluctant to tie a bow on the season just yet, asking for time to put it in perspective.

“Right now it’s hard to reflect on it,” Ewing said. “I just have a bitter taste in my mouth right now. So I’m going to take a couple days and reflect. Depending on what happens, see if we’re going to get a chance to continue to play and then reflect on it and see. But right now it’s hard to say.”

His longtime foil, Chris Mullin, wasn’t nearly as bashful in his praise.

“He’s the same person he was when I first met him,” Mullin said. “And his work ethic, his discipline, that’s going to carry over to anything he does. Obviously he did that as a player. He did it as an assistant coach in the NBA for many years. I think he’s done a tremendous job in his first year, not only record-wise, but I think the way they play, the type of team. To me it resembles him, they’re aggressive, unselfish, they work hard and he’s very demanding. That’s who he is.”

Later, asked for the zillionth time about the surreal image of him on one bench and Ewing on the other all these years later, Mullin smiled and said, “I know I’d rather coach against him than play against him. It’s a lot easier on my body.”

Ewing impressed all year with his active approach on the bench, even earning a starring role in a social media meme with a pointed huddle critique of one of his best players, Marcus Dickerson, after he’d taken an ill-advised shot against DePaul.

“Step-back, one-legged … what kind of shot is that?” Ewing yelled over the crowd and the pep band at the next time out. “Have you ever shot that shot? Do you work on that shot? When?”

Derrickson scored 24 points in the game. The Hoyas won. Neither was a coincidence.

He has already signed a solid recruiting class, and the thing that’s most evident from this first year: when he has the talent Georgetown is going to be a bear for anyone to play. And where have we heard that one before?

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