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Ewing, Harris Resurrect Georgetown Back to Prominence

Georgetown University men’s basketball head coach Patrick Ewing has faced adversity his entire life.

When Ewing’s mentor, the late John Thompson, led Georgetown to the NCAA national championship game in 1982, Ewing had to grin and bear the moment of witnessing James Worthy, Michael Jordan and the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate victory.

However, true character lies in champions when they are stopped at the door from greatness, figuratively and literally.

Ewing was held back multiple times by security guards at Madison Square Garden during the 2021 Big East Basketball Tournament in the same venue where he played as one of the greatest New York Knicks of all time.

Not only did Ewing power those hurdles, but he also cleared them by winning the national championship as a player (MVP) in 1984 for the Hoyas’ only title and defeated No. 2 Creighton (73-48) as the head coach on March 13 to win their first conference championship since 2007.

The win was a bittersweet experience for Ewing, who lost his dear friend Thompson in August, but also earned a No. 12 seed and an automatic bid into the Big Dance.

Ewing agreed that something bigger was happening on the court, reminiscing on what Thompson built during his 27-year tenure leading Georgetown to prominence.

“It was ironic that 40 plus years ago, coach Thompson was hired at Georgetown, and it was on this day that he was hired, and today we won the Big East championship,” Ewing said after the game. “They had us ranked last. We started at the bottom, now we’re number one.”

Georgetown hasn’t seen the same level of success since Thompson departed. The Hoyas have not made it back to the tournament since 2015, but Ewing looks to be the change in just his fourth year leading the charge during the pandemic, which disrupted all activities, including Ewing battling COVID-19 himself.

Freshman Guard Dominates

Like Thompson was to him, Ewing has transitioned into the role of mentor, bringing up talent like Washington, D.C. native and freshman guard Dante Harris who has set the tone for the Hoyas during this historic run.

Harris scored in double-figures with 10 points and did a little bit of everything, accounting for eight rebounds and five assists against Creighton in the final and was named the most outstanding player of the tournament.

“He’s been doing a great job,” said Ewing of his star freshman guard. “It’s great to know that someone is going to be there through thick and thin. He’s had some growing pains that he’s had to go through, but I think the growing pains that he went through brought him to the point where he is right now. I think that helps us to win.”

Harris assumed the starting point guard role in his first season and showed maturity and commitment to the team after winning the tournament.

“I’m blessed and grateful for it, and I give all praise to God … I couldn’t of done it without him,” said Harris about earning MVP honors as his coach did as a former player. “I give it to my teammates, my coaches, the whole Georgetown community … they were behind us. Like I said, I give the most valuable player award to the team because I couldn’t of done it without them.”

Now, Ewing will prepare to take on No. 5 Colorado on Saturday in Indianapolis. Harris will have the support of senior leadership from guard Jahvon Blair and the domineering post presence from sophomore center Qudus Wahab, both recently named to the 2021 Big East All-Tournament team.

It will be a true David versus Goliath match, with Colorado (22-8) winning 14 of their conference games and staging a 6-1 run heading into the tournament.

Nevertheless, Ewing has coached this group to compete at all costs, and who better to lead them than a man who survived Covid-19, proved he could win the big game as a player and coach while resurrecting a legendary basketball program from the cellar?

“As a coach, I’m here where a lot of people didn’t think I had the ability to do [so], and I’m proving them wrong,” Ewing said. “Everyone has done their part to get us to this point. I believe in these kids, and I think they believe in me. I told them that we have enough talent to win the Big East, to make it to the NCAA tournament, and once you get to the NCAA tournament, anything can happen.”

Ewing is now the first person in conference history to be the most outstanding player on a Big East Tournament championship team as a player and to coach a Big East squad to a conference title. A feat that the man with a towel draped across his shoulder would be proud of indeed.

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