For a few glorious hours last weekend, the Big East tournament championship game transformed a group of current and former NBA coaches into unabashed fans. They typed messages to one another on text chains as Georgetown took a commanding lead over Creighton. For at least one of them, tears of joy welled up as he watched the Hoyas head coach accept the trophy after the game.
Patrick Ewing conjured those emotions in his friends.
Ewing, who is in his fourth season as the head coach at his alma mater, has his own unofficial fan club within the NBA coaching ranks. The group includes Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford, Houston Rockets coach Stephen Silas, New Orleans Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy and assistant coaches throughout the league who worked alongside Ewing during his 15 years as an NBA assistant coach, honing his craft, hoping for a head-coaching opportunity.
“It’s hard to quantify my happiness for him and his team,” said Jeff Van Gundy, who coached him during Ewing’s New York Knicks playing days and later hired him to become a Rockets assistant coach.
“For all of his efforts, and all of his coaching ability, to be rewarded with an NCAA Tournament bid, and the way they did it — four games, four days, beating two top-20 teams along the way — I’m ecstatic for him and for what it means.”
The joy extended to Silas, who worked four seasons alongside Ewing when Ewing was the Charlotte Hornets associate head coach from 2013 to 2017. The day after eighth-seeded Georgetown thumped second-seeded Creighton in the Big East tournament championship, Silas wore a pair of Ewing-brand sneakers that Ewing once had given him. Silas started his pregame news conference by leaning back in a chair and resting his high-top sneakers on a table, revealing the name “Ewing” across the soles. Silas grinned.