When Georgetown hired Patrick Ewing in March 2017, it was supposed to signify a moment of change for a once-great basketball program that found itself mired in mediocrity. Coming off a season that saw the Hoyas go 14-18 under John Thompson III—son of the late, great coach of the same name—Georgetown decided it was time to move in a different direction. What better way to do that than to bring in the man who led the program to its lone NCAA championship as a player in 1984? The prodigal son of Georgetown was returning, and optimism about the program was higher than it had been in quite some time.
Fast forward six years, and it’s hard to find optimism in just about anything having to do with the Georgetown men’s basketball program. Attendance has cratered and there is a crushing air of apathy surrounding the team. More than anything, the program feels directionless, and Hoya fans would kill for the JT3 days. Ewing is destroying the program he once made great, and the time for change is long overdue.
As of March 1, the Hoyas sit 7-24 overall and 2-18 in BIG EAST play. Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency metrics have the Hoyas ranked 212th out of 363, just between the Eastern Carolina Pirates and the Saint Joseph’s Hawks. Just about the only positives this season have come from a brief respite to their horrible losing streaks, breaking a record-setting 29-game BIG EAST losing streak against DePaul on Jan. 24 and a 22-game road skid at Butler on Feb. 19.
The problems of last season, when the Hoyas went 0-19 in conference play, remain despite a roster overhaul. They can’t defend, can’t hold leads, and play a generally uninspiring brand of basketball. Even with the additions of talented transfers like Brandon Murray, Primo Spears, and Jay Heath, and the return of starting big man Qudus Wahab, Georgetown finds itself repeating many of the same mistakes. At some point, fingers must be pointed at the 7-foot-tall constant on the sideline.
It is time for Georgetown to face the reality that the Ewing experiment has run its course. In his six-year coaching tenure, he has reached only one NCAA Tournament and has yet to have a single winning season in BIG EAST play. His biggest victory has been the 2021 BIG EAST tournament, which while impressive, came off the heels of a disappointing 9-12 regular season. But a four-game hot streak should not be the crowning achievement of a program as storied as Georgetown’s and a figure as great as Patrick Ewing. He has compiled a 75-108 record overall (a .409 winning percentage), and has gone 13-49 (.209) over the past two years. The last time a Georgetown player was drafted to the NBA was 2013. In fact, if you ask Aminu Mohammed (Georgetown’s most recent five-star recruit), the program has actually hurt its own players’ draft stocks.
Despite his supposed failings, Thompson made eight NCAA Tournament appearances in 13 years (including a Final Four in 2007), had a winning in-conference record eight times, and a winning percentage of .648. Less than a decade ago, this is what was considered “disappointing” on the Hilltop; today, a single conference win is cause for celebration.
Today’s Hoyas are so far below disappointing they make the JT3 teams look like those coached by his father. They are a national laughing stock, a running joke among college basketball fans and media. Every few weeks, a new record seems to be set: the only winless in-conference season in program history, the first loss to crosstown American University since 1982, the longest losing streak in BIG EAST history, and on and on. The Georgetown brand as we know it is disintegrating by the day.
Ewing’s strongest trait at Georgetown has been his ability to recruit talent, but as losses pile up, recruits don’t even want to come anymore, and when they do, they don’t stay very long. The list of talented Georgetown recruits who have walked through its doors only to exit unceremoniously is extensive, including recent NBA Slam Dunk Champion Mac McClung. This season saw nine new faces on the sideline; that isn’t normal, even in modern college basketball. Anyone with a shred of talent seems to leave the Hilltop the minute greener pastures come calling. Point guard Dante Harris (who was named the Most Outstanding Player during the Hoyas’ BIG EAST tourney run in 2021) even chose to transfer midseason, choosing not to play at all over spending another semester with the Hoyas, marking the 17th player to transfer out of the program during Ewing’s six-year tenure.
As a reflection of this dismal record, attendance at Capital One has been steadily declining for years. In 2021-22, the average attendance of a Georgetown game was 5,525 in a stadium that fits over 20,000. Fans don’t have the energy to care, and frankly, the people in charge don’t seem to either. Ewing’s return this season was the first time ever that a power conference coach not in his first season has lost every game in conference play and yet was still asked to stay for another go-around. Due to the contract extension he signed in 2021, it would’ve cost a substantial amount to fire him at the end of last year, but that figure will be much lower this time around.
Patrick Ewing will always be known as one of the Hilltop’s most loved and respected alumni, a man whose name is practically synonymous with the concept of basketball at Georgetown. But his time as its coach must come to an end. For most current students, their best memories of Georgetown basketball while on campus are a fluke BIG EAST Tournament run and a clobbering at the hands of Colorado in the NCAA Tournament, and even that came during a time when not many students were on the Hilltop due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are no highs and lows of college basketball to be found in Washington, D.C., only lows and lower lows. There’s no enthusiasm to be found because there is nothing to be enthusiastic about. To younger Hoyas, Ewing is a symbol of Georgetown’s failures rather than the symbol of success that he once was. They don’t know him as the dominant center who led the Blue and Gray to three NCAA championship games—they know him as the head coach who can’t stop his team from losing or his players from leaving. If Ewing wants to try and preserve the legacy that has captured the hearts and minds of Hoyas fans and alumni for decades, parting ways with the school he loves is the only option.