There’s a big story in college basketball this season: Patrick Ewing is returning to Washington as the head coach of the Georgetown Hoyas.
At 7 feet tall, everything about Ewing seems larger than life. He was an all-American center who led Georgetown to a national championship in 1984. Ewing went on to an outstanding pro career as an 11-time NBA all-star with the New York Knicks.
So Ewing should be a great coach, right?
Not so fast. A lot of NBA superstars, including Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Bob Cousy, were not good NBA coaches.
And take a look at the best college coaches. Most of them were not superstar players. But a college coach has to recruit players, teach them how to play as a team and do a million other things to make the team a winner.
Take a look at some of the best college coaches.
Mike Krzyzewski (Duke): Coach K has won more than 1,000 games and five NCAA championships during his legendary career. Krzyzewski was the captain of his basketball team at the U.S. Military Academy in the 1960s, but he never played in the pros. Instead, he served as an Army officer for five years before he started coaching.
Tom Izzo (Michigan State): Izzo’s teams always are near the top of the Big Ten and the NCAA tournament. Izzo was a walk-on — that means he was not even recruited to play basketball — at his college, Northern Michigan University. He started his coaching career at a high school before moving into the college coaching ranks.
Roy Williams (North Carolina): Williams has led the Tar Heels to three NCAA championships since he left Kansas and returned in 2003 to North Carolina, where he had spent 10 years as an assistant coach. Williams played on UNC’s freshman team, but he never made it to the varsity. Like Izzo, Williams started his coaching career at a high school.
Other than Ewing, I can think of one very successful college coach who was a superstar player: Dawn Staley.
She’s the head coach of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks, who won the 2017 NCAA women’s championship. Staley was a great player in her day. She was a three-time all-American at the University of Virginia and a five-time all-star in the Women’s National Basketball Association. Staley was also a member of three gold-medal-winning Olympic teams.
She can coach, too. Staley’s team was 10-18 (10 wins, 18 losses) in her first year at South Carolina (2008-2009). But the Gamecocks have had records of 34-3, 33-2 and 33-4 in the past three seasons.
So if Patrick Ewing wants a model of someone who went from being a superstar player to a superstar coach, he should look at Dawn Staley.
Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 22 sports books for kids.