John Thompson, Georgetown's basketball coach, said yesterday that the recruiting of 7-foot high school all-America Patrick Ewing was the "easiest and most open" talent search of any he's experienced, but strongly questioned the furor that followed Ewing's decision to attend Georgetown.
Ewing, who signed a national letter of intent April 8 committing himself to Georgetown, was the most soughtafter high school player in the country this year. Following a Feb. 2 announcement that Ewing would attend Georgetown, it was reported that Ewing's Rindge & Latin (Cambridge, Mass.) coach, Mike Jarvis, had distributed a letter last summer to about 150 colleges outlining Ewing's academic weaknesses and setting forth a program to compensate for them.
The letter said Ewing would require careful guidance in course selection, daily tutoring -- including help with the writing and proofreading of papers -- review of reading material, untimed testing and permission to use a tape recorder for lectures.
Since the release of the letter, Jarvis, the Ewing family and Georgetown have come under criticism from the media, people in the academic community and some coaches.
"I've never seen anything intended to help someone backfire as much as this," Thompson said yesterday in his first interview specifically concerning the recruiting of Ewing since his commitment to GU.
"It didn't work because of the present state of college athletics in this country and because of the way in which the letter was presented in the media. The guidelines were drawn up to help keep the youngster from being exploited.
"Jarvis and the family made no stipulations, and there has never been a contractual agreement regarding Patrick Ewing's course of study at Georgetown. What Pat Ewing is getting at Georgetown is no different from what any other student who needs help at Georgetown would get.
"This kid has never asked us for one thing -- not even a soda," Thompson continued. "I think he's a fine kid and a plugger who will work hard and progress steadily towards a degree at Georgetown. We hope to expose him to enough things and help him grow as a person in his four years here."
Now that Ewing has signed the national letter, Thompson and his staff have started making plans for his arrival on campus. The coach said he will meet with Ewing and his family to determine his course of study and to decide whether he will attend summer school.
"It will be difficult for Patrick because of who he is and the way people have already predetermined judgments about him," Thompson said. "He's a very personable 18-year-old. When he did that press conference in February, in front of all those people and all those lights, he was expected to be perfect. What 18-year-old would be perfect in that situation?
"Now, because of all the publicity over the letter and the press conference, the kid is placed in a situation where he has to overcome every stereotype, when what we had was a nervous 18-year-old standing in front of a lot of TV lights."
Thompson said he first saw Ewing play three years ago at Boston Garden when Ewing was a sophomore. Thompson was one of 16 coahces invited to make a presentation to the family next year. He was then among the six finalists for the youngster many people say is in the same class as Virginia's Ralph Sampson.
"I will get credit for being a good recruiter because we signed Patrick, when in fact I did less with him than any player we've ever gone after because of the guidelines.The first time I ever called his house was two days before he signed the national letter of intent.
"It bothered me that some people thought he was going to Georgetown only because I am a black coach. I think some coaches used that to put him on the defensive. I like to think I'm more complicated than the pigment of my skin. If that was the case, it's about time. Still, how come no one said Ralph Sampson wanted to play for a white coach at Virginia, or Moses Malone wanted to play for a white coach at Maryland.
"Of course, I have my selfish motives. I did not recruit him for what he can do for society. I did it for basketball; and he's a great player.
"People are always talking about making exceptions. Well, there are exceptions. I am astonished at people who are amazed that things are not equal. Patrick Ewing, because of who he is, can influence others. And good institutions have a responsibility to educate someone like that.
"Society is not equal; we know that. Specifically, more qualified blacks have not been admitted to colleges rather than the individual exceptions who do get in."
In a recent interview, Charles Deacon, Georgetown's director of admissions, said recruited athletes do not have to be weighed competitively against the pool of 8.600 who apply for the 1,200 places each year. Basically, he said, they are admitted on the recommendation of the coach, provided the admissions committee is satisfied the athlete can do the work and there is no other compelling reason not to admit them.
"I do not evaluate the player's test scores or grades," Thompson said. "I can only recommend; and John Thompson does not have carte blanche with who gets into Georgetown University. I'm not worried about the other coaches who take shots at us. Sometimes I get the feeling we place higher standards on the players than we do the coaches."
Thompson said he was amused by comments made by Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell that Ewing would be prey to other recruiters until the day he enrolled at Georgetown because the Hoyas were not on the national letter of intent. "All Lefty had to do was look at the back of the national letter itself," Thompson said. "We got on the letter last summer."
Thompson also indicated Georgetown has no immediate plans to play its games away from its 4,500-seat McDonough Arena, at least for the 1981-82 season. "Kids are now starting to choose us for what we are, not to make us something," he said. "Patrick is not coming to a welfare program. We deserved Patrick Ewing, Bill Martin (McKinley) and if we get him, Anthony Jones (Dunbar)."
Because of the addition of Ewing, the Hoyas will be among the higher-ranked teams in the country going into the new season. "There's pressure on a coach when he starts five untested freshmen, and there's pressure when you have great players," Thompson said. "I prefer more pressures like Patrick Ewing."