If there were questions about Patrick Ewing’s hiring at Georgetown, they mostly concerned his ability to perform a task unique to the college game: recruit top players. That’s central to college coaching, and just about nonexistent in the pro game, where Ewing resided before getting the top job at his alma mater. He’s talked frequently about his comfort in that amateur basketball world — “the recruiting is recruiting, and it’s been fine,” he said at Tuesday’s media day — and he also doesn’t appear to have much patience for those asking the questions.
“It’s funny, when I first got the job, all people kept talking about was the recruiting’s gonna be the death of you, the recruiting’s gonna be the death of you,” he said in an interview with Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, scheduled to air Thursday night on SiriusXM’s “Basketball & Beyond with Coach K.”
“A young man that was on ESPN who will remain nameless [said] that Patrick’s gonna get this job and it’s wrong for him to get the job,” Ewing went on. “He’s used to being in the NBA, he’s not gonna want to come off the road and then turn around and go recruiting — which is a load of crap. Because life in the NBA’s all about traveling. That part of it has never been the hardest part.
“Right now it’s all about changing the culture, trying to instill my philosophy and what I believe into these young men,” Ewing said. “You know, when a lot of people think about Georgetown athletics or Georgetown basketball or Georgetown, they think about John Thompson, they think about myself, Alonzo [Mourning], Dikembe [Mutombo] and Allen [Iverson]. And that’s when Georgetown was at its all-time high, and it’s my vision to try to get us back to that level.”
Krzyzewski, who has often predicted the demise of NBA rules that caused college basketball’s one-and-done phenomenon, asked Ewing what it would be like now to recruit someone as big as he had been in high school.
“I’d love to have the opportunity to recruit a person of my stature,” Ewing said, adding that he could have made a hardship declaration and left early for the NBA, but that he had promised his mother he would finish his degree. “But in this day and age, I probably would have been one of those one-and-dones.”
He also said he has a new understanding of the lack of traditional big men now that he’s spent so much time around the youth game.
“First of all, everyone wants to be Durant, everybody wants to be Porzingis,” Ewing said. “Everybody wants to be a stretch-four, a stretch-five, and I think that’s where all the bigs are. When I was growing up, I was a huge Dr. J fan, a huge Dr. J fan, just like I’m sure there were kids who were big who wanted to be Michael Jordan. But you also know that I’m a center. I mean, I wanted to be like Dr. J, but I also knew that my game was the post. I could do a lot of things that Dr. J could do, but I also knew my bread and butter was to post up. But these days, every big, they’re athletic, and I think it’s great to be able to play multiple positions or be able to do a lot of things. But everybody who can run or can jump, they all want to be on the perimeter. Nobody wants to be in the post anymore.”
Ewing also repeated a story he’s told before, about how Michael Jordan ushered him into the coaching world during his time running the Wizards’ front office. Ewing was set to retire from playing, and told Jordan that he didn’t know what he wanted to do, but that he wanted to do something.
“And he’s like, ‘Why don’t you come back to D.C., work here with the Wizards,’ ” Ewing recalled. “We’ll create a position for you behind the bench, try coaching, if you don’t like the coaching I’ll put you in the front office and you can try the front office. So I was given that opportunity by a friend, enemy, whichever way you want to call us. And now it’s been, what, 15 or 16 years later and I’m still doing it.”
Krzyzewski, meanwhile, had high praise for both Ewing and his school, arguing that John Thompson Jr. built Georgetown basketball into a brand, and “that brand has not gone away.
“I mean, when people hear the word Georgetown, firstly as a school, they think of excellence,” Krzyzewski said. “And when they think of basketball, they think of excellence, they think of winning.”