It was just a week ago that Patrick Ewing weighed in on the coaching search being conducted by the Knicks' new front office leadership, throwing his weight behind Tom Thibodeau in an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio. It harkened back to days when the Knicks were contenders for a title, with Thibodeau serving as an assistant coach while Ewing was finishing up his Hall of Fame playing career in New York.
Perhaps it is just coincidence that the Knicks are returning the favor, airing a week of games paying tribute to Ewing’s career. Ewing, now the head coach at Georgetown University, spoke with MSG Network in an interview that will air Wednesday night on MSG 150 at Home, this time focusing on his own Knicks history.
For a franchise struggling to find its way, the 1985 Draft Lottery remains a seminal moment, when Dave DeBusschere, the team’s general manager at the time, slammed his fist on the table as the Knicks won the right to select first and grab Ewing. Ewing was a few hours drive south still at school watching as this history took shape.
“I was on Georgetown’s campus, sitting in Coach Thompson's office – myself, Coach Thompson, my agent [David Falk], Mary Fenlon [former Georgetown men's basketball academic coordinator],” Ewing told MSG Network. “Once it came down to the Knicks or Indiana, I'm like, 'Please let it be New York, please.' You know, nothing against Indiana, but I would have rather been in New York. And New York won. I was very happy. I know that there were a lot of fans that were also happy. I think they might have set a record in terms of season ticket sales that day. It was great.”
Ewing had already had his moments at Madison Square Garden. He played for the Hoyas in the glory days of the Big East Conference, facing St. John’s University in conference play and then in the Big East Tournament — including a game that will air Wednesday night in which Ewing led the No. 2 ranked Hoyas to a win over No. 1 St. John’s, a game remembered as “The Sweater Game.”
“I had some great memories – playing in the Big East Tournament, playing against St. John's, all of those things,” Ewing said. “It always felt great to come to New York. New York is the Mecca. The fans – sometimes they were rude, sometimes they were boisterous. But we had our own fans too as there’s a lot of Georgetown people in New York. So it was a great experience.”
Ewing never got the championship that was expected when he arrived in New York, but he did establish himself as one of the franchise’s greatest players. While he left with some acrimony, traded away to finish out his career in Seattle and Orlando, he returned to have his jersey retired by the Knicks.
“It meant a lot, it's the culmination of my career,” Ewing told MSG Network. “I think not only myself, but my teammates, all the blood, sweat and tears and injuries that we sustained through my 15 years there, gave me the honor to be up there with all those greats. And I do still consider myself a Knick. I was honored to have all my friends, all my peers, my family come back and help me celebrate or close the chapter of my basketball career.”