What does Georgetown need to do to be successful again?

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Six years ago, Patrick Ewing walked into Madison Square Garden in his first Big East media day as the new head coach of the Georgetown Hoyas, whom he’d led to the 1984 national championship as a player.

The symbolism of the moment was not lost on him.

“It’s great to be back here,” Ewing said from a dais in the same building where he’d been a legend for the New York Knicks during his NBA career. “This is one of the places I consider my home.”

The joy, however, didn’t last. In Ewing’s five seasons as head coach, Georgetown has never finished above .500 in the Big East, and it finished above .500 overall just once. They made the NCAA tournament in 2021 after a surprising run to the Big East conference championship — which came after a 9-12 conference finish — but lost in the first round to Colorado. Last season, they didn’t win a single game after December 15, finishing 6-25 overall.

And on Wednesday night, the Hoyas recorded their 25th consecutive Big East loss, a league record, against Villanova, 73-57. Earlier Wednesday, Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed said it’s “imperative” to get the program moving in the right direction.

There is a sense of urgency we haven’t seen around Ewing and Georgetown. Is this the end for the legend? ESPN’s expert panel of Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway and Myron Medcalf look at how Georgetown arrived at this point, and what could potentially be next.


The numbers don’t look good. How did Georgetown get to this point?

The numbers look historically dire. The Hoyas are being outscored by 0.22 points per possession on every trip down the floor in Big East play. Yes, it’s early, and, yes, we’re not even finished with the first week of January. But this situation has been developing for a while now and the question that arises is how is this proud program playing to this level with exactly 25% of the Big East schedule already in the books?

The irony is that the program’s glory years under Patrick Ewing the player were defined by a defense that didn’t just excel, it robbed the other team of any hope. Now, those same opponents are scoring virtually at will (1.20 points per trip in conference play). On paper this rotation is blessed with size, but that length isn’t forcing misses. When you’ve lost the ability to defend and your team is also scoring less than a point per possession in its own right, it is exceedingly difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is where Georgetown sits in 2023. –John Gasaway

Can it be fixed? How?

Yes. But not with Patrick Ewing. I also don’t think it ends with replacing Ewing. “Big” John Thompson Jr. created a brand in college basketball that impacted the entire sport in the 1980s and 1990s. He brought African-American stars to a private school in Washington, D.C. — Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning and others — and set the sport on fire.

But this school has to begin to admit to itself that the current generation of athletes don’t have that connection to Thompson, who died in 2020, or his legacy.

The Hoyas have had multiple key players transfer under Ewing. They’re not even landing top players in the local area. The buzz is gone, so Georgetown has to be willing to move forward in a respectable way that acknowledges Thompson but also allows the program and school to move into modern college basketball with the way it recruits, plays and connects with its supporters. Firing Ewing won’t cancel Thompson’s legacy. It appears to be the only way to save it.–Myron Medcalf

Patrick Ewing’s time at the helm may be nearing its end. Who’s next if the Hoyas legend leaves?

First, Georgetown needs to figure out its plan to part ways with Ewing. The Hoyas can’t just suddenly fire a program legend, a college basketball legend, like they would any other coach.

Aside from his stature at the university, one of the problems is the money. After the shocking run through the Big East tournament in 2021 and advancing to the NCAA tournament, the school gave Ewing an extension. His contract is now reportedly fully guaranteed until 2026, meaning the school would owe him in the region of $15 million if it were to fire him. While Ewing earned more than $100 million in his playing career, he’s unlikely to resign on his own and walk away from $15 million. So the two sides likely need to come to an agreement before a change is made.

Georgetown will have to go outside the John Thompson tree with its next hire, for the first time since the legendary head coach took over in 1972. But it needs to find a way to bring excitement back to the fanbase, especially at a time when Villanova — one of its biggest rivals, from a regional recruiting perspective — is in a state of transition.

Could the answer be Rick Pitino? He likely has one more big job in him before retiring, and he’s proven at Iona that he’s still arguably the best basketball coach of his generation. A call to Providence’s Ed Cooley is also worth a shot. He’s done an incredible job with the Friars and — perhaps more importantly for the sake of this discussion — developed a relationship with the late Big John over the course of his career. —Jeff Borzello



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