Patrick Ewing, Georgetown and a Bitter End at the Garden

Minutes after his Georgetown team was blown out by Villanova at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, Patrick Ewing walked through the handshake line.

Dressed in a black sweatsuit, Ewing greeted one player after another, then turned and walked alone toward the locker room. It’s a move he made hundreds of times, first as a college player at Georgetown and later as an NBA star with the Knicks. Wednesday, however, was different: The Hoyas’ 80-48 loss to the Wildcats in the first round of the Big East men’s basketball tournament, another loss in another lost season, was his final game as Georgetown’s coach.

After Ewing posted just one winning season during his six-year tenure, the university announced Thursday it was looking for a new coach. In his last two seasons, the Hoyas went 6-25 and 7-25, and Ewing acknowledged in his postseason news conference Wednesday that his latest run at Georgetown could end.

“My future is in the hands of our president and our AD and board of directors,” he said Wednesday.

President John J. DiGioia declined an interview request about Ewing earlier this week, and athletic director Lee Reid declined to comment on Ewing’s future Wednesday night. But by Thursday their decision was clear. Reid said in a statement that a national search for Ewing’s replacement will begin immediately.

“I am extremely grateful for Coach Ewing’s vision, his determination and everything he has helped Georgetown achieve,” DiGioia said in a statement. “Over the past six years, he has been tireless in his commitment to his team and the young men he has coached, and we will be forever grateful for his courage and his leadership in our Georgetown community.”

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DiGioia called Ewing “the heart of Georgetown basketball” in their statements, and Reed said it was “a privilege” to work with him. But the program with Ewing as its coach had very different results than when Ewing was its star center in the 1980s.

The Hoyas went 75-109 in 2021, with just one NCAA Tournament appearance. Last season, the Hoyas finished the regular season 0-19 in conference play. 2-18 in league this year.

It was only two years ago that a happy and successful Ewing strolled through the Georgetown locker room at the Garden singing Drake songs. After finishing last in the conference’s preseason poll, the Hoyas upset Creighton in the BIG EAST Tournament final to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament — the program’s first berth since the 2014-15 season.

But that hope was short-lived. The Hoyas lost to Colorado in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and went on a 29-game losing streak in regular season Big East play that went into late January this season.

“It’s the same things Ewing talks about all the time — we just can’t close out games,” Rich Chwodkin, the Georgetown basketball radio voice for 49 seasons, said in a phone interview Tuesday. “In the Big East, if you can’t close out games, you’re in trouble.”

This season’s team, with nine freshmen, played a generally uninspiring brand of basketball.

“I feel like our roster has the talent to compete with everybody in this conference and everybody in the Power 5,” said Primo Spears, a 6-foot-3 sophomore point guard who transferred from Duquesne. “But it’s a new team. We have a new set of guys. Our top seven have never played against each other.

“When you play other teams in the Power 5, it’s hard to connect quickly in a short period of time. So I think everyone has to get used to playing with each other, and by the time we get used to each other, it feels like it’s too late.

Ewing also couldn’t take advantage of the rich recruiting grounds near the university. The DMV region — the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia — is known for its high-level basketball talent, but Georgetown hasn’t signed a DC Gatorade Player of the Year since Chris Wright in 2007. No Georgetown player was featured. NBA since 2013.

The fans’ dissatisfaction with the team’s struggles has spilled over into the field. Georgetown beat Seton Hall 66-51 on Jan. Losing 10, making it 27 straight Big East losses of 29, the Hoyas’ student section chanted “Fire Ewing.”

“Obviously, when you don’t win, the fan base isn’t very happy,” Chvotkin added: “But you know, Patrick, he’s a warrior. He does what he can. It’s a shame they didn’t get it done. That’s the problem. They didn’t get it done.

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