Patrick Ewing sat at a table inside a building named after his former coach John Thompson Jr., flanked by the Georgetown logo, and acknowledged something fans have clamored for in recent years: the need for change. The Hoyas are coming off their worst season since the 1970s. They finished 6-25, went winless in Big East play and closed the season with 21 consecutive losses.
Ewing enacted massive change, from the roster to the coaching staff, and has made some scheme adjustments. But even with so many new faces, the sixth-year coach hasn’t let anyone forget the 2021-22 debacle.
“You can’t ignore it,” Ewing said Wednesday at media day. “I’ve taken responsibility as the head of this program for last year’s season. When you don’t accomplish the things that you set out for, changes have to be made. Changes were made both on my staff and also with the players. . . . You have to make changes when things don’t go well. And I think that the guys that we have brought in have done a great job so far in trying to get us back to where we need to get to.”
The Hoyas lost four of their top five scorers to the transfer portal or the NBA draft, and the fifth, point guard Dante Harris, is not with the team because of personal reasons. Ewing did not give a time frame for his return. Ten players, not including Harris, from last season’s roster are no longer with the team. There are 10 newcomers, including center Qudus Wahab, who played his first two years at Georgetown, then transferred to Maryland for last season before transferring back. Recruiting website 247Sports ranked the Hoyas’ seven-player transfer class fourth in the nation.
Kevin Nickelberry was brought in from LSU and named associate head coach, and longtime assistant Louis Orr was moved off the bench and named special assistant to the head coach. Pat Baldwin was brought in from Wisconsin Milwaukee, and fellow assistant Clinton Crouch was promoted from Orr’s new position.
Ewing said the biggest improvement the team needs is on the defensive end after ranking last in the Big East in points allowed per game. Nickelberry will focus on coaching defense while Ewing handles the offensive end.
“I need to get better at everything,” Ewing said. “The day you think that you know everything is the day you stop growing. So naturally, I watched film. Watched last year’s film. Watched previous years’ film. Talked to my confidants that I have, not only in the NBA but all over, about things that I need to do to be better. You have to continue to grow to be successful.”
There easily could be little concern about the past from the new group of players considering they had nothing to do with it, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. They are aware of the trials and tribulations Georgetown has gone through. Each player at media day pointed to a desire to resurrect a once-dominant program.
“It’s definitely a goal that we all think about,” said Akok Akok, a 6-foot-10 junior forward who played three seasons at Connecticut. “They only won six games last year. Everybody knows [within] the program that’s unacceptable. The program and the history of the program, the players that used to come from this program, we’ve got to lead the right way and also leave for the future guys that are coming here as well. So we’ve got a big chip on our shoulder this year.”
Sophomore Primo Spears, a transfer from Duquesne, added: “We think that when Georgetown basketball is great, then basketball all around is great. We definitely want to bring that energy back and that winning culture back to the program.”
Spears, a 6-3 guard, led Duquesne in scoring last season; Akok was ranked the No. 92 recruit in the nation in 2019 by 247 Sports; LSU transfer Brandon Murray (6-5 guard) was named to the SEC all-freshman team; and Wayne Bristol Jr. was the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rookie of the year at Howard in 2019-20. But Wahab may be the biggest transfer in the group — literally and figuratively. The 6-11 center led the Hoyas in rebounds and ranked second in scoring in 2020-21. He transferred to Maryland last season and saw his numbers decline in every major statistical area except assists — which went from 0.2 per game to 0.4.
Ewing said the absence of a post scorer was one of the biggest offensive issues last season.
“Georgetown is like home to me,” Wahab said. “Also, the culture is changing, and the mentality is changing. We want to bring Georgetown back to the top.”
Ewing added, “We definitely have more talent than we had in the past.”