Ewing returns to March Madness - to lead his alma mater to another NCAA title
Four decades after he led his alma mater Georgetown University to a NCAA title in 1984, Jamaica-born basketball Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing will return to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament as head coach of his alma mater, looking to continue a season no one could have anticipated.
Georgetown will open tournament play against the fifth-seed University of Colorado tomorrow after winning the Big East conference championship, earning an automatic bid into the tournament, their first in six years. The victory was significant for the programme in its fourth season under Ewing as they were picked to finish last in the conference in preseason. It's the latest chapter in a coaching journey that saw him go to various destinations as an assistant in the NBA before his first permanent position with the team he enjoyed collegiate success with as a player.
Ewing led the Georgetown Hoyas to the 1984 title and soon after proceeded to the NBA where he would spend the majority of his career with the New York Knicks, becoming an 11-time All Star, leading the franchise to two NBA finals and winning Olympic gold medal for the United States in 1984 and 1992.
After retirement in 2002, he moved into coaching where he would become an assistant for the Houston Rockets from 2003 to 2006 and the Orlando Magic in 2008, where he helped the team to a 2009 NBA finals appearance. He would accept his first head coaching job with Georgetown in 2017.
Georgetown had not made the tournament during Ewing's three previous seasons. This year they finished eighth in the conference with a 7-9 record and had games cancelled because of COVID-19 issues with an unlikely chance to earn a tournament bid without winning the conference tournament. However, they would cause upset after upset in the Big East tournament, eliminating the two best teams in the conference in Villanova and Creighton to earn the coveted bid.
National senior men's coach Rick Turner says that Ewing must be credited in being able to get his team surging at the right time.
"What I can speak to is what this shows about coach Ewing and his ability to bring a team together and peaking at the right time is part of it," Turner told STAR Sports. "His team is one of a couple of teams, against all odds, would come together at the right time and steal a couple of spots into the tournament, and it just proves what a great basketball person and a great coach he is. Georgetown is in the right hands."
The moment was more poignant as Georgetown won the conference title at Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks where his jersey was retired.
"I wouldn't have words to express the impact that he has had on basketball. Georgetown made a great run at the end of the year when no one thought they would make the tournament. They ended up winning their conference tournament and getting in and you know that's a great story for Jamaica as well," Turner said.