Patrick Ewing has spent more than 30 years living and breathing NBA basketball. Ever since he was the first overall pick in the 1985 NBA draft, after having one of the great careers in college basketball history at Georgetown, Ewing has been a constant presence in the NBA universe — first as a player in his Hall of Fame career, and then as an assistant coach working in a variety of stops and under a variety of different head coaches.
This summer, though, Ewing has gone back to his roots and taken over the Georgetown program after the Hoyas parted ways with longtime coach John Thompson III earlier this year.
In reporting an excellent feature story about Ewing’s arrival on campus and what it means for Ewing, the program and college basketball as a whole, The Washington Post’s Kent Babb says that if this works, it could lead to massive changes to the way college basketball operates.
“I could probably make an argument — a fairly convincing argument, I think — that he will succeed at the highest level, and [also that] he can fail, and after his six-year contract is done it just won’t work,” Babb said in the latest episode of “Posting Up,” The Washington Post’s NBA podcast.
“This is a massive adjustment, to the point that I firmly believe … if he succeeds, the way he thinks he’ll succeed, I think he’s going to change the way college basketball recruiting is done.”
Why? Well, Babb says, because Ewing doesn’t do any of the things that have become commonplace on the college circuit as ways to convince teenagers to commit the next few years of their lives to one program — and, perhaps more importantly, to convince the people around those teenagers to give that program a chance in the first place.
“He doesn’t do social media,” Babb said. “All coaches do social media. He’s not a super energetic, burst-into-the-door, John Calipari-type of recruiter, and he doesn’t want to have to get in bed with the AAU circuit.
“If you read the story, I talked to a lot of guys and the one person I sort of blindly quote is not alone. There are a lot of people in the AAU scene, in particular in the D.C. area, who are very frustrated because they haven’t heard from Patrick Ewing yet.
“And I don’t mean they haven’t been wined and dined by him — I mean they haven’t heard from him. And I think that’s really jarring to a lot of these guys who, when others coaches in this region get jobs, they spend the first couple of weeks reaching out, seeing who is important seeing who can help them, seeing who wants to invest in whatever program they want to be a part of.”
That’s far from the only factor that could make Ewing’s transition to college difficult. As he himself said in Babb’s story, there is far more travel than in the NBA to recruit players (though, Babb notes, he does usually get to fly in a charter jet as opposed to having to fold his 7-foot body into a commercial airline seat). His staff includes only assistants over the age of 40 — a surprise for a coach who, coming from the NBA, was expected to have little trouble with Xs and Os, but would seemingly benefit from some young grinders who specialize in recruiting to get players for him (as, for example, longtime rival Chris Mullin did when he went back to St. John’s two years ago and hired Matt Abdelmassih from Iowa State).
And any discussion of Georgetown can’t go without mentioning the enduring presence of the man who turned the program into a national power, John Thompson Jr., who continues to be ingrained in the fabric of the school he arrived at as its head coach 45 years ago.
“It is fascinatingly complicated there,” Babb said, succinctly summing up the challenges Ewing will face as he embarks on his new venture.
After a lengthy discussion about all things Ewing and the present state of Georgetown hoops, the final few minutes of the podcast were dedicated to a discussion about the second-most-famous player in Hoyas history: Allen Iverson.
Babb wrote a book about Iverson, “Not A Game,” and Iverson has found his way back into the headlines repeatedly over the past few months because of his involvement with Ice Cube’s Big3 league — or, more accurately, his lack of involvement after agreeing to be a face of the league. Babb discusses Iverson and what he calls the “Allen Iverson Virus,” and how Ice Cube is its latest victim.
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