Patrick Ewing, Georgetown and a Bitter End at the Garden

In the moments after his Georgetown team was blown out by Villanova on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, Patrick Ewing solemnly walked through the handshake line.

Dressed in a black sweatsuit, Ewing greeted one player after another, then turned and walked by himself off the court toward the locker room. It was a walk he had made hundreds of times, first as a college player at Georgetown, then as an N.B.A. star with the Knicks. Wednesday, though, was different: The Hoyas’ 80-48 drubbing by the Wildcats in the first round of the Big East tournament, yet another loss in yet another lost season, might have been his final game as Georgetown’s coach.

After posting only a single winning season in six years as head coach, and coming off consecutive seasons of 6-25 and 7-25, even Ewing acknowledged his latest run at Georgetown might be at an end.

“The two seasons have been rough — disappointed in the outcomes of these last two years,” Ewing said. “My future’s in the hands of our president and our A.D. and the board of directors.”

Asked if he wanted to return for a seventh season, Ewing said: “Hey, look, I am proud of being a Georgetown Hoya. This institution has been great to me over the years. I’d be honored to come back as the coach here. That’s it.”

Ewing, the Hall of Fame center who starred at Georgetown and then became the face of the Knicks in the 1980s and ’90s, has experienced his share of dramatic wins and losses at the Garden. But never in his basketball career has he endured such a prolonged stretch of frustration and failure.

On his watch, the Hoyas have been 75-109 with only one N.C.A.A. tournament appearance, in 2021. Last season, the Hoyas finished the regular season 0-19 in conference play. This year, they were 2-18 in the league, and 7-25 overall.

John J. DeGioia, Georgetown’s president, declined a request for an interview about Ewing this week, but praised his coach at the N.C.A.A. convention in San Antonio in January. “I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with Coach Ewing for 40 years, over the course of many ways in which he has provided such extraordinary service to Georgetown,” DeGioia said. “Watching him, watching our team struggle at this moment, is difficult. But no one — no one — could be more committed or working harder to turn it around than Patrick Ewing.”

Standing outside the Georgetown locker room on Wednesday night, Lee Reed, the university’s athletic director, declined to comment on Ewing’s future.

“It’s been a long year, my thoughts are with the team right now,” he told reporters. “That’s all I’m thinking about right now.”

It was only two years ago when a joyous and victorious Ewing strolled into the Georgetown locker room at the Garden singing Drake lyrics. After being picked to finish last in the conference’s preseason poll, the Hoyas had just upset Creighton in the Big East tournament final, earning an automatic bid in the N.C.A.A. tournament — the program’s first berth since the 2014-15 season.

But that optimism was short-lived. The Hoyas lost in the first round of the N.C.A.A. tournament and carried a 29-game losing streak in regular-season Big East play into late January of this season.

“It’s the same stuff that Ewing talks about all the time — we just have not been able to close games,” Rich Chvotkin, Georgetown basketball’s radio voice for 49 seasons, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “And in the Big East, if you can’t close games, you’re in trouble.”

Ewing has also struggled to retain players: 17 have transferred out of the program during his tenure, including Mac McClung, who left for Texas Tech and this year won the N.B.A. dunk contest, and Dante Harris, a Washington native and the winner of the outstanding player of the 2021 Big East tournament. Harris transferred to Virginia in January.

This season’s team, with nine new players, generally played an uninspired brand of basketball.

“I feel like our roster has the most talent to compete with everybody in this conference, and everybody in the Power 5,” said Primo Spears, a 6-foot-3 sophomore point guard who transferred from Duquesne. “But it’s a new group. We got a new group of guys. Our top seven has never played with each other.

“When you play other teams in the Power 5, it’s hard to mesh quickly in such a little time. So I think everybody just needs to get used to each other’s game, and by the time we got used to each other, I feel like it was too late.”

Ewing also hasn’t been able to take advantage of the fertile recruiting ground near the university, either. The D.M.V. region — the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia — is known for its high-level basketball talent, but Georgetown hasn’t signed a D.C. Gatorade Player of the Year since Chris Wright in 2007. No Georgetown player has been drafted into the N.B.A. since 2013.

Fan discontent about the team’s struggles has made its way into the arena. In the waning moments of Georgetown’s 66-51 loss to Seton Hall on Jan. 10, the 27th of what would become 29 straight Big East losses, the Hoyas’ student section broke out a “Fire Ewing” chant.

“Obviously, when you don’t win, the fan base is not very pleased,” Chvotkin said, adding: “But you know Patrick, he’s a warrior. He’s doing the best he can do. It’s just a shame that they’re not getting it done. That’s the problem. They’re just not getting it done.”

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