The first game of the Patrick Ewing era at Georgetown on Sunday was at least partly a celebration of the man himself, with various NBA luminaries and notable Hoyas alumni part of a lively Capital One Arena crowd for the new coach’s debut, a 73-57 win over Jacksonville.
Michael Jordan, whom Ewing credits with getting him into the coaching business, sat in a suite and spoke with the team after the game. Basketball Hall of Famers Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning sat courtside with the Wizards’ Otto Porter Jr., another former Hoya. Wizards Coach Scott Brooks and TV analyst Jeff Van Gundy, Ewing’s former coach with the New York Knicks, sat next to each other in the stands. Ewing said his high school coach was also part of the announced crowd of 9,212.
In his inaugural game, Ewing was businesslike and composed as he stalked the sideline, wearing an inscrutable expression and rarely getting worked up even as the Hoyas committed 18 turnovers and matched Jacksonville with 37 rebounds despite their size advantage. Once or twice, he broke into a wide grin on the bench. He joked around with the referees.
As the Hoyas’ second-half lead grew to double figures, Ewing took a step toward midcourt, then looked down at his feet and retreated, as if his toes had touched fire. He had already stepped too far out of the coaching box once Sunday, and he wanted to make sure he wasn’t reprimanded again. Call it a rare rookie moment for the first-time head coach. Otherwise, Ewing looked completely comfortable calling the shots in his first win.
“I wasn’t aware of it,” Ewing said with a laugh when asked about stepping over the line. “First of all, it’s hard to see that little [mark]. It blends in.”
Ewing admitted that he was nervous before tip-off.
“It was funny,” he said, “I was talking to [Van Gundy] before the game, and I was telling him as a player I never really got nervous. But as a coach I got nervous. The biggest difference is I’m counting on [my players], and as a player I’m counting on myself. But like I said, I thought they did a very good job.”
Center Jessie Govan and forward Marcus Derrickson, both juniors, led the Hoyas with 20 points each. Govan, who spearheaded a solid defensive effort, pulled in a game-high 15 rebounds. Guard Jonathan Mulmore had five points and seven assists.
Freshman forward Jamorko Pickett (six points on two three-pointers) and junior guard Kaleb Johnson (two points) rounded out the Hoyas’ starting five, though Ewing spread minutes liberally throughout the bench.
Georgetown executed Ewing’s vision, pushing the pace and playing tight defense. The Hoyas held Jacksonville to 15 three-point attempts compared with the 30 the Dolphins took in their season opener against UAB.
Ewing said bringing down the number of turnovers and three-point attempts (26) would be a point of emphasis moving forward as the Hoyas prepare for their second game, against Mount St. Mary’s on Wednesday.
“I want to be able to shoot threes. It needs to be a mixture of fast-break points — I’m not sure how many fast-break points we had tonight — but it needs to be a mixture of fast-break points, post points, free throws and threes,” Ewing said. “I don’t see us as being a three-point-dominant team, so we need to have a blend of everything.”
Encouraging as it was to start the Ewing era with a win, Derrickson wanted more from the Hoyas in their opener.
“Starting off a game with 18 turnovers, and they outrebounded us? No, not really,” he said when asked whether this win was a good starting point. “We got a lot of work to do in practice next week.”
Van Gundy was confident his former center will address what needs to be addressed.
“The biggest thing is you’ve got to find your voice. He’s got his voice,” said Van Gundy, who sported a navy Georgetown sweatshirt for the game. “He’s very commanding and demanding. But also the thing I think that’s so critical is that you can be demanding, but I also think you’ve got to be — which he is — incredibly personable. The media that covered him as a player wouldn’t have known that. . . . I just think for Pat, he’s very comfortable with who he is. And that’s a big step for a head coach.”
But first, Ewing is going to enjoy his first win. He was given the game ball after the final buzzer, and in front of the media afterward he showed the same personality as the one displayed on the sideline: a mixture of serious and jovial.
He teased a reporter who asked where he was going to put the game ball.
“I’m going to keep it, frame it, put it in either my office or at home,” Ewing said, smiling. “I’m definitely going to make sure you don’t go nowhere near it.”
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