*Big Man on Campus. When Patrick Ewing arrived at Georgetown University in 1981, he helped transform the basketball program under the tutelage of legendary head coach John Thompson Jr., leading the Hoyas to three Final Four appearances and the school’s only National Championship in 1984. The Jamaican-born big man went on to become the first overall pick in the NBA draft and played 15 seasons for the New York Knicks during his Hall of Fame career.
After retirement, he served as an NBA assistant coach for nearly 15 more seasons until this past April, when Thompson called him to discuss taking over as head coach of his alma mater. REAL SPORTS host Bryant Gumbel travels to Washington, D.C. to meet with Ewing and Thompson as the Dream Team star tries to lead Georgetown back to college basketball’s elite.
Producer: Nick Dolin.
Patrick’s old coach … thinks that Ewing was the victim of various stereotypes … among them, his size.
GEORGETOWN LEGEND JOHN THOMPSON: “If I were to ask you right now to name the guys that are 6’10” that have ever coached as a head coach in the NBA in college, and you’re not gonna find many of ’em. Because the stereotype comes into it. The little guard is the thinker. He’s the general. The 6’10” is the big dummy rebounder. Jabbar, Shaq, if you go through most of these guys, Sampson, none of these guys coach.”
In fact, according to Real Sports research… among the 258 head coaches hired in NBA history… the vast majority of whom were once players… only 15 of them … just 6 percent… have been centers…
BRYANT GUMBEL: “Somebody wrote, ‘After firing his son, the specter of further alienating John Thompson proved scary to Georgetown. So they went with a guy of whom they knew he’d enthusiastically approve.’”
JOHN THOMPSON: “I would say that that’s an insult to my intelligence.
This university’s too smart and too powerful to let me scare them into hiring somebody.”
PATRICK EWING: “There’s a ball– deflated ball. We still keep it in the office. And– you know– one of the things he always told us, at some point the ball is gonna stop bouncing. So you know, you gotta have a backup plan. A Georgetown degree is a, is a powerful degree.”
While Ewing’s approach is laudable and his integrity is unquestioned, the very real bottom line in college sports hasn’t changed at all… and isn’t likely to anytime soon.
JOHN THOMPSON: “Patrick will get fired if he doesn’t win. I would have gotten fired if I hadn’t won. Oh, they talk about my graduation rate and Big John, communicate with the kids and all that old kinda stuff they say. But it wouldn’t have meant a damn thing if I hadn’t have won, here at Georgetown or any other place.”