As he entered his office a few weeks ago, Patrick Ewing noticed a note on his desk. The message, from a close friend of the Georgetown coach, was short and concise: “Block out the noise and go get a [blanking] win.”
Ewing finally got that [blanking] win.
The Hoyas snapped a 29-game Big East losing streak Tuesday when they pulled off an 81-76 victory over the DePaul Blue Demons. The victory caused Ewing to wave his stat sheet in delight to a crowd of fans cheering as he exited the court, players to embrace each other as if a great burden had been lifted off their shoulders and radio announcer Rich Chvotkin to shout “Hoyas win!” 23 times.
A single victory, of course, may not be enough to save Ewing’s job. The Hoyas, even after ending their conference skid of 22 months, are still 6-15. Just weeks ago, Georgetown’s athletic director put out a statement that this season had been a “challenging and frustrating time.” One conference win doesn’t change that.
And yet, Georgetown’s upset — yes, it was an upset — served as a reminder of how invested Ewing and his players still appear to be in the program, even when so much hasn’t gone their way over the past few months.
Ewing even began his post-game press conference with an opening statement, something he doesn’t typically do.
“Finally, we got one,” Ewing said. “I thought my team worked extremely hard, not only to get this win but they’ve been working extremely hard, believing in faith and not giving up. We kept on plugging away.”
In true Georgetown fashion, Tuesday’s result didn’t come easy. The final 90 seconds of the game lasted almost an excruciating 20 minutes in real time. In that span, Georgetown saw its lead of 12 cut to as few as 3. The Hoyas couldn’t seem to stop fouling, even though the Blue Demons were the team that needed to do so. But guard Primo Spears hit two clutch free throws with four seconds left to help Georgetown hang on. Time then expired. “It did feel very long,” Ewing said.
But it took even longer to get a win. Ewing and Georgetown have found themselves in this position because of the near-constant churn of players entering — and exiting — the program. This season, Ewing had 10 newcomers — replacing 12 who left from the previous season, including all five of last year’s leading scorers, who either declared for the NBA draft or transferred. Ewing, after a 6-25 season, also made sweeping changes to his coaching staff.
That sort of exodus was rare, but it hasn’t been completely out of the norm throughout Ewing’s six-year tenure. Even after Ewing’s most successful season as a coach — an NCAA tournament appearance in 2021, Ewing’s lone trip at the helm — Georgetown saw eight departures, three of which were transfers.
The on-court product has suffered, and as a result, so has the atmosphere. Tuesday’s listed attendance was listed at a mere 3,724. Those who actually showed up appeared to be far fewer than that. The crowd looked as if there were still pandemic-related capacity restrictions in place, only there was no such thing.
At one point earlier this season, for a non-conference game against Siena, the Hoyas offered a promotion of free tickets to any District resident. That game drew a crowd of just 3,526.
The glory days with coach John Thompson Jr. — and even the days of John Thompson III — have long passed.
“If you look at our games, we’re right there,” said Spears, Georgetown’s leading scorer (16.8 points per game) who transferred from Duquesne. “It’s hard because we know that we’re capable of and we’re just not getting the result. We have a great group of guys that don’t give up.”
Said forward Akok Akok: “Coach Ewing, he always kept emphasizing the message to stay in the fight.”
When wins do happen, they’re still meaningful. In the final moments of Tuesday’s game, a handful of security guards lined up by Georgetown’s student section to ensure they wouldn’t rush the court. The section, just five or so rows deep, jumped up and down and seemed as if they wanted to do so.
Ewing, meanwhile, completed his post-game television interview and was greeted by a handful of cheering fans. He gave high fives to a number of them as he made his way down the tunnel.
“I’ve won pretty much everywhere that I’ve been,” said Ewing, who helped Georgetown win a national championship in 1984. “So losing is not something that I’m familiar with. … It’s all about getting up.
“When you get knocked down, you can’t stay down. You have to continue to get up. I’ve kept getting up every day. My team kept getting up every day and kept on fighting.”