On April 3, Georgetown hired former player Patrick Ewing as its new men’s basketball head coach. He received a warm reception from students, fans and alumni around the nation. Still, there were enduring questions about his lack of experience as a head coach at the collegiate level.
There have been several promising signs about the second Ewing era on the Hilltop, however. There is still a lot of work to be done, but positive developments in media, fan engagement, recruiting and staffing have been made in his first three weeks.
Beginning with his introductory press conference at the Thompson Athletic Center on April 5, Ewing has conducted a series of interviews on many television and radio stations. He has been refreshingly candid and engaging in addressing his vision for the program, his coaching career and his return to Georgetown. He has openly discussed his plans for recruiting, working with the returning players, on-court style of play and assistant coaching hires. On Wednesday, Ewing even made an appearance in O’Donovan Hall to meet with Hoya Blue members and other students.
These appearances are particularly significant in the context of a Georgetown program that is notoriously reluctant to open itself up to the public, and the transparency bodes well for the team’s fan base moving forward.
Ewing has also made some important steps toward recruiting and roster management. Since he has not been involved in college basketball recruiting since his own college days, recruiting was expected to be a learning experience for Ewing. In recent years, the increasing importance of factors like Amateur Athletic Union programs, shoe company sponsorships and NBA ambitions have greatly changed the recruiting landscape, making it far more complicated than it was in the 1980s.
Still, early returns are promising in this area as well. On Friday, Class of 2017 guard Jahvon Blair committed to Georgetown after making an official visit last week. Blair is not ranked among the top 100 prospects on the major recruiting outlets, but the 6-foot-4 guard boasts impressive high school statistics and a successful track record. In addition, Ewing has met with another impressive Class of 2017 recruit, Tremont Waters, who had signed a letter of intent to play for the Hoyas before de-committing amid uncertainty surrounding the program’s future. Waters has said that Georgetown remains in the mix as he chooses a school for next season.
Long-term recruiting also appears to be a priority. Last weekend, during the first live-recruiting period of Ewing’s tenure, Georgetown staff members were spotted at major AAU tournaments in New York City, Dallas and Hampton, Va., and were rumored to be talking with a number of top prospects in the Classes of 2018 and 2019. Ewing himself was spotted in Hampton taking in the action at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League.
In order to assist him in this area, Ewing has expressed a desire to add an experienced staff of assistant coaches. Two of Georgetown’s rumored hires, both of whom have been reportedly finalized, are former Seton Hall Head Coach Louis Orr and current LSU Assistant Coach Robert Kirby. Orr, a former teammate of Ewing’s with the New York Knicks, has 13 years of experience as a college head coach, including five seasons at Georgetown’s Big East rival, Seton Hall. Orr’s experience should allow him to provide guidance on running a program and navigating the NCAA, as well as assisting with in-game strategy.
Kirby, an assistant coach at Georgetown from 2010-12, is known as an excellent recruiter, particularly in the Southern states. During his tenure at Georgetown, he was instrumental in recruiting Otto Porter Jr., who starred at Georgetown before being selected by the Washington Wizards in the 2013 NBA Draft In addition, Central Florida’s Jamill Jones and Louisiana Tech’s Tony Skinn have been discussed as potential assistant coach candidates. Both have experience coaching with Team Takeover, a premier AAU program in the Washington, D.C. area, and hiring either Jones or Skinn could provide additional advantages related to recruiting.
Finally, Ewing and his staff have also been successful in convincing current players to stay. When college programs make a coaching change, it is fairly common that players transfer to other schools, as their relationships with the coaches who recruited them are often an important component of their decision to attend a certain school.
In Georgetown’s case, however, it appears that all current players will stay. Ewing has said that he plans to meet with each player individually, and it seems that he has been successful in selling his vision to them for the program. Additionally, junior forward Trey Mourning, who had been rumored to be transferring, is listed on the updated Georgetown roster, and Class of 2017 recruit Antwan Walker has re-affirmed his commitment to the Hoyas. With Blair’s addition, it appears that Georgetown has 10 scholarship players on board for next season. While there is still work to be done to fill some of the three remaining scholarships, Ewing has made a promising start for next season.
Unquestionably, we are in the very early stages of Ewing’s tenure on the Hilltop. There is still a great deal of work to be done in the areas of fan engagement, recruiting and staffing. Nonetheless, the promising signs in Ewing’s early weeks appear to overcome his areas of inexperience and seem to place the historic Georgetown program back on track.
Tyler Park is a junior in the College.