John Thompson: 'Patrick Ewing will get fired if he doesn't win' | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / June 14.
  • John Thompson: ‘Patrick Ewing will get fired if he doesn’t win’

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    Patrick Ewing is about to begin his first season as the head coach of his alma mater, Georgetown. But his former coach, John Thompson, says he will get fired if he doesn’t win.

    Thompson’s own son, John Thompson III, was fired last March after failing to lead the Hoyas to the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons. That led to Ewing being hired despite having no head coaching experience.

    “Patrick will get fired if he doesn’t win,” the elder Thompson, who coached Ewing to the 1984 NCAA championship, told Bryant Gumbel for Tuesday night’s episode of HBO’s Real Sports. “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.”

    The Hoyas were picked ninth in the 10-team Big East this season.

    “It’s all laying the foundation,” Ewing told reporters at Big East Media Day. “It’s all about building it and getting back to prominence. It’s my goal to get back to being the elite program that we once were.

    “I’ve been given a great opportunity at my alma mater, a place that I’ve known, a place that I was able to spend four of the best years of my life. … Right now, I’m just going through practice and pushing them and trying to get them to believe in myself and see where my team is.”

    Thompson also thinks that part of the reason Ewing was never hired as an NBA or other head coach until now is because of stereotypes about the intelligence of big men.

    “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,” Thompson said. “Because the stereotype comes into it. The little guard is the thinker. He’s the general. The 6’10” is the big dummy rebounder. [Kareem-Abdul] Jabbar, Shaq [O’Neal], if you go through most of these guys, [Ralph] Sampson, none of these guys coach.”

    Real Sports researched the subject and discovered that among the 258 head coaches hired in NBA history, the vast majority of whom were once players, only 15 of them (6 percent) have been centers.

    Chris Mullin, a former college and NBA guard, and a former rival of Ewing’s at St. John’s, advised Ewing when he was considering the Georgetown job.

    “I think it’s great for Georgetown and a great choice,” Mullin told reporters last week at Big East Media Day. “I think he’s going to get them back on top. The Big East will flourish from that, and college basketball in general.

    “It’s surreal, but it’s kind of cool.”

    Meantime, because Ewing played for Thompson at Georgetown and Thompson still exerts a great deal of influence on campus, there is speculation that Thompson is still running his old team though Ewing.

    “I would say that that’s an insult to my intelligence,” Thompson told Real Sports. “This university’s too smart and too powerful to let me scare them into hiring somebody.”

    Said 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.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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