In April 2017, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) announced that basketball Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) would be the new head coach of Georgetown’s men’s basketball team.
“Patrick’s commitment to Georgetown and to further animating our legacy of excellence is inspiring,” DeGioia wrote in a press release. “His experience as a coach over the last 15 years with some of the best basketball minds in the country has prepared him to lead our program.”
But Georgetown leadership did not just hope he would bring his experience in the front office to the Hoyas. They were banking on his success as a player — both in college, as a member of Georgetown’s 1984 NCAA men’s basketball championship team, and the NBA — to translate into success as a coach. DeGioia, the Georgetown administration and fans of the Hoyas all hoped the most accomplished player in the program’s history would usher in another era of dominance.
Ewing was aware that all eyes were set on him upon his return.
“As successful as I was as a player, that’s how successful I want to be as a coach,” Ewing said ahead of his debut season in 2017.
Six years after returning to the Hilltop, Ewing has fallen short of his lofty goals.
Georgetown has not won a regular-season Big East game since March 2, 2021, setting an all-time conference record for most consecutive losses (27). As of Jan. 20, they are 0-8 in conference play, dragging Ewing’s conference record as a head coach to 26-71. Although the Hoyas won the Big East Tournament championship in 2021, their postseason run ended in a 73-96 thrashing by the University of Colorado in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
In 2017, Georgetown pitched Ewing’s hiring as a means of reviving a failing program. However, the university hasn’t sparked a revival of any kind. Instead, it has remained unwaveringly tethered to its decades-old brand: Patrick Ewing, Chief of Staff Ronny Thompson (CAS ’92) and an attempted emulation of 1980s Hoyas basketball.
For students like Ryan Knapick (SFS ’24), the historic losing streak and lack of institutional change could spell the end of his fandom.
“We need to move on. There needs to be a new coach,” Knapick said in an interview with The Hoya. “It’s hard to care about a team that goes out and loses every game. The feel on campus is pretty poor. Everyone is waiting for a new start.”
As clamors for change mount and the university remains resistant to the voices of fans and analysts alike, a number of key catastrophes have defined Ewing’s tenure as head coach.
The Failures of Georgetown Basketball
Georgetown has turned into one of the worst second-half teams in Division I basketball. On Jan. 4, Georgetown was tied with the Villanova Wildcats 35-35 at halftime. They ended up losing 57-73. Three days later, it was more of the same. After heading into the half leading the Marquette Golden Eagles 36-34, the Hoyas ultimately suffered a 22-point beatdown.
These are not isolated examples, either. This season, of the 363 NCAA Division I basketball programs, Georgetown ranks among the bottom 25 teams in second-half points allowed. Offensively, the Hoyas rank in the bottom fourth of all teams in second-half points scored.
One of Ewing’s blunders that has been exposed in the second half is his shallow rotation. When Georgetown blew a double-digit halftime lead in its Nov. 23, 2022 loss to American University, sophomore guard Primo Spears, who averages the seventh-most minutes per game in Division I college basketball, logged 37 minutes. Meanwhile, first-year point guard Denver Anglin saw the floor for only three minutes.
Moreover, in the Ewing and Ronny Thompson era, Georgetown has suffered from logistical failures. The program is plagued by a lack of transparency, ranging from confusion around Ewing’s contract to dismissals and transfers without acknowledgement or explanation.
In February 2022, Jon Rothstein of FanDuel reported that Ewing received a contract extension following the Hoyas’ Big East title in 2021. Georgetown, however, has not released any official information regarding an extension or the size and length of Ewing’s current contract. While Ewing’s initial contract paid him a salary of $2.6 million per year through the 2022-23 season, an extension may further disrupt Georgetown’s plans for his potential exit.
The issues extend to his players, too. In the 2021-22 season, junior forward Tre King, an incoming transfer, was dismissed from the program for not meeting the university’s expectations on conduct. Georgetown never expanded on what these violations were. Before he could log a single minute for the Hoyas, King transferred to Iowa State, where he now averages 16 minutes per game for the No. 14 Cyclones.
When asked for a statement about his dismissal, Iowa State Athletics told The Hoya that King has no comment on the situation.
The university also failed to announce the departure of junior guard Dante Harris, the Big East Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament in 2021. Harris left the Hilltop on Dec. 18, 2022, to join the bench at the University of Virginia (UVA) for the rest of the season because of NCAA rules on midseason transfers. Georgetown’s program is yet to issue so much as a press release for the player who led the Hoyas to their most successful season under Ewing.
After transferring to UVA, Harris was not shy about blasting the culture at Georgetown either. Less than a month after announcing his move, Harris reposted a pointed tweet by Caroline Darney, the managing editor at USA Today’s BetFTW.
“Dante Harris looks like he’s having so much fun already,” Darney wrote in the tweet. “I can’t imagine the vibe switch he’s experienced.”
Georgetown Athletics did not respond to The Hoya’s repeated requests for comment about Harris’ transfer. Additionally, UVA Athletics informed The Hoya that Harris declined to comment on the situation.
When Harris left the Hoyas, he joined a class of 17 former Georgetown men’s basketball players — Donald Carey, Collin Holloway, Tyler Beard, Timothy Ighoefe, Jalin Billingsley, Kobe Clark, Jamari Sibley, T.J. Berger, Mac McClung, James Akinjo, Josh LeBlanc, Galen Alexander, Myron Gardner, Grayson Carter, Antwan Walker, Chris Sodom and Qudus Wahab — who transferred out of the school during Ewing’s term as head coach. One other player, Chuma Azinge, entered the transfer portal after the 2021-22 season but was not selected.
The team has struggled to build a sustainable program without returning starters. Every year, Georgetown turns to Ewing to build a competitive team out of a roster of brand new players, only to lose a lot of them the next year and restart the process.
The Misleading Strength of Ewing’s Coaching Resume
Because of Ewing’s ability to bring in a strong roster of players each season, some fans have remained loyal to him. Ella Davie (SFS ’25) said that without Ewing, Georgetown would be unable to attract the quality of top transfer talent it has seen under him.
“Despite the fact that we’re not winning games, he did convince a lot of good transfer portal players to come here, and that’s really useful,” Davie said in an interview with The Hoya. “I do give him some credit for that.”
In addition to recruiting Aminu Mohammed, a five-star guard, in 2020, Georgetown boasted the fourth-best transfer class in the country in 2022. The Hoyas have already picked up a four-star guard for 2023 in Marvel Allen, beating out LSU, Texas A&M, Arizona State, Kansas and Michigan to land the recruit.
However, five of Georgetown’s seven transfers from this class were three-star recruits. Multiple schools ranked below the Hoyas had a higher average transfer class rating than Georgetown, but Georgetown’s higher number of incoming players boosted their ranking above those schools.
Moreover, highly-ranked transfer classes are less impressive when they’re needed every year. Under Ewing, Georgetown has been a revolving door for its players, replacing transfers with transfers.
The poor results on the court and the ineptitude off the court has led to a significant decline in interest from the Georgetown fan base, but there wasn’t always this level of disinterest in the formerly coveted program.
Omar Kanjwal (SFS ’17), who runs a fan account for the Hoyas on Twitter, said the difference in fan engagement between now and his time at the university is marked.
“There was a lot of interest in the basketball team. There was a craze for it,” Kanjwal said in an interview with The Hoya. “Now, Georgetown loses to American for the first time in decades, and did anyone really care? It’s not even something that picks up on people’s radars anymore. That’s the bar. That’s the standard they’ve set.”
After years of growing apathy about the team’s performance, Kanjwal said his following of Georgetown men’s basketball hinges on whether the university fires Ewing.
“If they don’t move on from Coach Ewing, I’m probably done with Georgetown basketball for the foreseeable future,” Kanjwal said. “There’s no faith in his ability to turn things around. There’s zero precedent in college basketball to suggest he can do something like that.”
Thomas Panchley (MSB ’24), a dedicated fan of the men’s basketball team, said his attendance at future Georgetown basketball games will depend on whether Ewing is replaced.
“I’ve been a season ticket holder the last two years,” Panchley said in an interview with The Hoya. “If they don’t fire him by the end of this season, there’s no chance I’m getting season tickets next year.”
Despite all the problems that plague the Georgetown men’s basketball program, fans and analysts say Georgetown keeps Ewing and Ronny Thompson around, primarily because they are the two people in the organization most connected to the legacy of John Thompson Jr. If the university moves on from them, it will face a tough trade-off between building a modern winning program and honoring the greatest coach in Georgetown history.
That coach, John Thompson Jr., made sports history as the first Black coach to win an NCAA basketball title. Under the three-time Big East Coach of the Year’s leadership, the Hoyas had a 596-239 overall record with a streak of 24 postseason appearances in the NCAA or NIT tournaments. John Thompson Jr. also sent 26 of his players to the NBA draft and had two of them, Ewing and Allen Iverson, selected as the No. 1 overall pick. Since 1999, he has been forever enshrined as an inductee of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
At Georgetown, John Thompson Jr. is honored with a tall bronze sculpture at the entrance of the John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletic Center.
Though it is important for Georgetown to remain connected to the legacy of John Thompson Jr. in its purpose and passion, it is clear that the Ewing experiment is not working, according to John Gasaway, an ESPN college basketball writer and author.
“Georgetown is right to put him on a pedestal at every opportunity, and as far as the people connected to him, keeping them involved in the program,” Gasaway said in an interview with The Hoya. “This hasn’t played out the way Ewing, among other people, would have wanted it. Now, the discussion has to be, ‘Where do we go from here?’”
After repeated requests for comment from Ewing about his future with the Hoyas, a Georgetown University spokesperson directed The Hoya to a statement made by Director of Athletics Lee Reed on Jan. 4.
“We recognize this is a challenging and frustrating time for the men’s basketball team and our fans,” Reed wrote in the statement. “Coach Ewing understands that it is imperative to get the program back on track and no one is more committed than he is to making that happen.”
However, the resounding answer, from fans and analysts alike, involves finding a new leader in the locker room. If Ewing and Ronny Thompson exit, it will end five decades of connections to John Thompson Jr. and usher in a new era for the Hoyas.
As Georgetown is one of the most storied programs in college basketball, Gasaway said the Hoyas should not struggle to find a suitable replacement.
“It would be easy to say that Georgetown is not such a good job anymore. But it’s a Big East program. The Hoyas will not lack for quality candidates when it does come to that,” Gasaway said.
Regardless of who replaces Ewing, the change will be welcome for a program suffering from the longest regular-season conference losing streak in Big East history. Ewing’s tenure has sunk Georgetown to depths no other team in the conference has ever fallen, a far cry from the sentiments expressed during his introductory press conference nearly six years ago.
That day, Ewing was aware there would be an ultimatum for his time at Georgetown.
“Success is winning,” Ewing said during the press conference. “If I don’t win, there will be another coach here sooner or later.”
In 689 days, Ewing has not won a conference game. And it looks like there will be another coach on the Hilltop sooner rather than later.
Jack the Bulldog says
A well-written and solid summary of the problems that plague our once-great team and program. We CAN honor and remember John Thompson, Jr. AND turn the page to a bright future if the Administration is truly committed to excellence on and off the court, a standard of transparency from top to bottom, and a clear vision of what’s possible. I urge the University to dare to be bold in its choice of a new coach and its willingness to bring to the Hilltop highly qualified people of integrity to rebuild the program. Then we will be able to once again support a team of which all Hoyas, past and present, can be proud. Hoya Saxa!
We must be sure to vet the next coach. Bobby Hurley?
Jon Ward says
The issues dragging down the basketball program are a lot more complex than identified in this article. Craig Esherick was a scapegoat in 2004. In 2017, the school fired a coach who had experienced a great deal of success. It now finds itself in this position, and the knee-jerk reaction is to blame the coach. While coaches always bear some responsibility, throwing Patrick Ewing under the bus will not fix this program.
I have been a Hoya fan for my entire life. I want to see a return to success. But it will take more than a new coach and a splashy hire. Rather, it will take a long-term commitment to selling Georgetown as a place that captivates recruits and has a coherent vision for long-term winning, both on and off the court.
If there is a change after this season, I hope that GU fans can move on without attacking the current staff. Coach Ewing has worked extremely hard and is committed to Georgetown University. If he is let go, fans can, and should, choose to take the high road.
Lifelong Fan says
“Selling Georgetown as a place that captivates recruits.” The recruits that they bring in are transferring out. That is one reason we need to look at the culture the coach has instilled.
roger d anderson says
Bad hire and it was obvious the day it was made. Never hire who you can’t fire.
All who made the decision to hire him then foolishly extend him because he won a fluke Big East Tournament during our era’s Plague of Justinian should be barred from making any hires for the bball team going forward.
The Colorado tournament game was over in 5 mins…….that was the real Gtown under Ewing not the mystical Magic Mona run we had in the Garden.
Ewing had to cut his teeth somewhere else. You don’t learn at this level. Look at the assistants he hired? Coaching is all about relationships…..who did he know?
What was his blueprint of college success? Pressing full court in 1984 with no 3 point line or shot clock? The game has changed 17 times since then.
It is also a young man’s world…..you could see early Ewing could not relate to the kids of today (you practice that shot…when?). And how could he? He has to kiss arse of teenagers (and their parents) who could not carry his jockstrap up a hill when he was the same age.
When he was hired he should have been a multimillionaire several times over. What would give him the impetus to be hungry enough and dirty enough to recruit at a winning level?
Lastly, in defense of Ewing I do not expect more from others than I do from myself. Having said that I would not step away from the program either unless my FULL contract was bought out. The one thing I agree with Ewing is stick around until you are bought out in full. The administration made a gaffe and it is not up to Patrick to bail them out. Cant fault him for that.
To replace Ewing the names should be John Beilien (if he still coaching as he is fantastic) Pitino the Elder…or a the best option there is as he is a top 3 coach in the county Chris Beard who you can get for a mere song and dance.
Well done on publishing this – I can image the pressure you all feel within the university to not write a negative article. It is time for a change from Ronny and Pat. The Thompson family and Ewing have given the university a tremendous amount and for that we will always be grateful. Just as JTIII ran his course as he was reluctant to change with times and it was appropriate to move on, so it is now.
The administration needs to be held accountable for fiscal irresponsibility and I, like many alumni donors, have suspended any donations to the school until there are answers. I would not accept the lack of results, lack of accountability and lack of transparency anywhere else in my life and certainly will not blindly support an institution just because it was good to me 25 years ago.
Please continue to publish more if you find more facts or are stonewalled further. Democracy dies in the dark and so too will our program and our school if you don’t continue to write.
Gorilla Monsoon is God says
I’m a Hoya lifer myself and well aware of what Ewing means to the school. But I am tired of the Lee Reeds of the world clinging to the “he’s trying as hard as he can” excuse. He’s not eight years old and he didn’t just strike out five times in Little League. And isn’t a full effort what he’s being so handsomely paid for anyway?
Lifelong Fan says
Yup. If he’s trying as hard as he can, and these are the results, all the more reason to move on from him.
Steve Stephenson says
Ronny Thompson is a cancer. Period. Burn the whole thing down.
Michael Graham says
U r so right 😅
James G. Fitzgerald says
I agree with you that the issues can seem complex, but I don’t think you included several of the points in the article. For example, in the six years of Coach Ewing’s tenure, his record has been consistently poor; other than the BE Tournament championship, there have been very few bright spots that would bolster the claim that he should still be coaching at GU. Therefore, the idea that the fans’ reaction is “knee-jerk” belies the 6 years of mediocre to embarrassingly bad basketball.
It isn’t just struggling to play good basketball, it’s the revolving door of transfers, the yearly drop in fan interest and support, the poor graduation rate, the secrecy around Coach Ewing’s contract specifications and surprising contract extension, and the lack of accountability from Ronny Thompson and the staff at the Thompson Athletic Center. Fans have been asking questions and seeking explanations for these matters for years. It is hardly ‘knee-jerk’ and it’s not just about Coach Ewing.
We all want the program to be successful, but no one thinks it will happen with merely a ‘new coach and a splashy hire’. It will take addressing the issues mentioned above in a bold and honest way. I, for one, would welcome the kind of courageous hiring of someone who has a track record of rebuilding a program and returning it to a reputable, winning program. There are not many such coaches, but there are a handful out there; I hope the Administration displays the vision to include such candidates in their search, which I pray will be undertaken asap.
Paul S. says
For more than two decades after JTII retired, many young student athletes were drawn to the program thanks to his legacy. However, with the passage of time, the brand has worn thin and is in imminent danger of being replaced by a far less desirable label – Big East doormats.
In my opinion, Patrick Ewing has not grasped the fact that his young recruits are players-in-the-making who require much personal and team-wide development to rise up into the upper echelons of the college game. Instead, they are thrust into a ‘pro style offense’ that pre-supposes they are developmentally equipped to run the court like an NBA team. They are not, because they are not learning the nuances of the college game – let alone the pro game.
Sadly, it’s high time to part ways with Ewing and that systemic barnacle that is Ronnie Thompson, and begin building a new legacy – one inspired by the JTII legacy, but reflective of a college game that is very different from that of Big Man U.
Michael Graham says
You are so right my friend
Not only is the team perennially bad, with 3s raining down on them every second half, it’s also a revolving door of disgruntled players that doesn’t graduate anyone and has no clear identity or values. For this, the university president authorizes the payment of millions of dollars.
Earl D. says
All my alum friends are saddened by the same thing – the loss of community because the basketball team was such an important way to keep everyone in touch.
This can and will get better when the university has the courage to act, and move on from Coach Ewing and Ronny — who have had more than a fair shot to find success.
Please act with enough time to interview any great coach on our radar. And please — act with the transparency that can rebuild trust with the entire Georgetown community.
Michael Graham says
This guy honestly need someone to have his back and he doesn’t I’m quite sure these assistant coaches are great guys but they don’t know Georgetown basketball they are so much trying to keep it in the Thompson family they are trying to make it out of Thompson university instead of Georgetown University quit holding the fans hostage. It really help him change and win it is so easy for one these guys don’t trust one another and they don’t play any defense they all are playing for themselves they have fell into the trap of making the NBA and getting endorsements such as the NIL agreements
The fact this conversation is still being had six years (!) after his hiring is flatly embarrassing for the administration.
It was clear when Ewing was hired this was choice predicated on past success of the Hoyas and ties to the 1985 team. After 2 decades of Esherick and JT3, and little to show for it besides a lone final four in 2007, was anyone really clamoring for another former player or assistant from that era to be the next coach?
Ewing was flailing during his in 2019 when it was clear the team had regressed in his third season even further after a middling .500 record the year prior – there was no point in paying attention at that point as your eyes could clearly see they weren’t competitive and heading in the wrong direction. This was 3 years ago.
Now? The team has lost 27 straight big east games. Get a grip, people. A coaching change is so long overdue it’s almost satire.
The Thompson legacy has become a stranglehold, a giant anchor around the program’s neck keeping it at the very bottom of college basketball. Georgetown needs a clean break from all of it.
We need to have the courage and confidence that Georgetown can be successful without them. GU is a great school in a great city. It can have a great basketball program without the Thompsons.
Michael Graham says
As I said they need to stop holding the University basketball team hostage they trying to make this out of Thompson’s University instead of Georgetown University the problem is you got assistant coaches who probably are great guys don’t know Georgetown basketball you got a guy who’s the chief of staff don’t know how to manage people and you have the athletic director afraid coach is scaring these people from the grave they need to let go
Mark Grad says
There is no sport like college basketball that the coach has a major impact on the results of a program. Coach Ewing has proven that he is not the one to bring the Hoyas to even a decent program. It is time for Georgetown to find the best young coach who can build a program to be successful again.
Life long Hoya fan. PLEASE hire Rick Pitino
It was time to move on from the Thompson era when Ewing was hired. You can’t live in the past forever. Unfortunately, DeGioia let his personal feelings for Big John impact his decision making. The fact that Ewing had many head coach interviews but was never given the job, should have been an indicator. Finally, the fact that the University has hid Ronny on the payroll is a disgrace.
From the coach, to Ronny, to the AD, to the President, there has been a staggering amount of incompetence on display these past six years. I honestly can’t envision any other Power 5 school putting on such a clown show with their football or basketball programs. Just… eye rolling.
Raful Edmunds says
Great article. It’s obvious to everyone at this point — Patrick has failed, Ronny has failed, and the administrative enablers failed.
Change is a MUST. The Thompson “legacy” ties need to be completely severed. It serves no purpose at this point.
Furthermore, the game has changed drastically and, with a proper coach in place, they should make sure their recruitment efforts are backed by alumni-funded NIL programs. That’s the hard facts. You want a 5-star McDonald’s All-American — it’s not free. It never was “free” as JT2 pointed out in his book. But now, it’s “legal” with NIL.
If the goal for the admin is a nice-clean, no NIL program, they can continue to be the doormat of the Big East until they are forced to join a lesser conference and struggle to fill McDonough.
Writer at The Athletic:
“I’m growing almost physically weary of how bad the Hoyas are. Like when they come up in casual conversations in practice gyms and arenas, everyone either rolls their eyes and throws their head back or actively slumps. That’s the weight of this atrocity. So I can’t imagine how the people who actually care about them feel.”
Al Tony Gilmore says
Loyalty to legacy at GT -absent of results – has no comparable in the history of college athletics. The president and AD are complicit
in the precipitous plummet of GT basketball into basketball mediocrity. The longer it continues. the more difficult it will be to attract a coach with a winning record and the best of basketball recruits. it makes a mockery of the excellence
donald garnett says
People tend to focus on wins and losses and not the fact that this young men are students and are just participating in a extracurricular activity. I would rather see them graduate.
COL 08 says
Donald – the article itself notes that 17 players have transferred out during Ewing’s tenure (plus an extra one who tried but couldn’t). The fact is, many of these players aren’t even graduating from Georgetown.
Additionally, there are a lot of extracurricular activities at Georgetown where it’s not necessarily about winning or losing, but the fun of the activity. But we aren’t paying the President of the Chess Club $2.6M per year.
We’re paying one of the largest amounts to a coach for a basketball program in the country, and are ranking close to community college level results. As one poster noted above, we’re treating Ewing – one of the highest paid college basketball coaches in the country – like an eight year old who struck out at Little League a few too many times. A pat on the head and saying that “no one is more committed” to turning the program around doesn’t cut it with that kind of money.
Illuminated Alum says
Underperformance is so Georgetown.
Basketball reports to DeGioia. Just another example of his gross negligence is running the school. #FIREDEGIOIA
Why is Ronny Thompson still employed. Questionable ethics. Secrecy and nothing but a losing record. #FIRERONNY
and it’s time to gracefully exit Ewing.