WASHINGTON — Patrick Ewing spent years grinding as an NBA assistant in hopes of one day leading a team of his own.
Little did he know that all of that waiting would lead him back to Georgetown, the school he helped build into a national power as a player in the 1980s.
Georgetown hired Ewing on Monday, bringing the Hoyas legend back to campus to take over a program that had fallen on hard times over the past two seasons.
In announcing the hire, Georgetown called Ewing “the greatest men’s basketball player to ever don the Blue (and) Gray.” He led the Hoyas to the school’s only national championship in 1984 and now he takes over for the son of the man who coached him at Georgetown.
“My four years at Georgetown were the best of my life,” Ewing said in a statement issued by the school. “Georgetown is my home and it is a great honor for me to return to my alma mater and serve as the next head coach. I have been preparing to be a head coach for many years and can’t wait to return to the Hilltop.”
John Thompson III, the son of Big John Thompson, was fired last month after consecutive losing seasons.
Ewing has been an assistant coach with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and had hoped for years to land a head coaching job in the pros. He also served as an assistant for Washington, Houston and Orlando and spent every July coaching the Hornets’ summer league team, never acting entitled despite his Hall of Fame credentials.
“Of all the players that have gone from superstardom to putting in the time and paying their dues to becoming a head coach, Patrick deserves this probably more than any player ever,” said Miami Heat president Pat Riley, who coached Ewing with the Knicks. “I am absolutely delighted for him and I think he’ll do a great job at Georgetown. Patrick Ewing was the first. He has come home.”
Ewing was a three-time All-American at Georgetown, a fearsome presence in the paint who led the Hoyas to three straight national title games. His dominance and Big John’s tenacity made the program an intimidating one while paving the way for a long line of great centers including Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo.
The blog Casual Hoya first reported the hire.
Thompson III coached Georgetown for 13 seasons, including a run to the Final Four in 2007 with future NBA players Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert. He went 278-151 with eight appearances in the NCAA tournament, but was just 29-36 over the past two years, prompting the school’s proud and vocal fan and alumni base to advocate for his dismissal.
Despite his father continuing to hold considerable clout within the university, Thompson III was fired.
An extended search took place before school officials ultimately decided to hire Ewing, who will have to quickly acclimate himself to the complex web of recruiting and academic eligibility requirements that are not a part of the NBA coach’s concerns.
Now it will be up to Ewing to restore Georgetown to the place in the college basketball landscape that he brought the Hoyas to as a player.
“To hire a head coach with this depth of coaching experience and personal achievements is tremendous,” athletic director Lee Reed said. “It is a thrill to have him come back to his alma mater and continue the legacy of tradition and success he had as a student-athlete on the Hilltop.”
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.