Patrick Ewing looks back on his career

On the eve of his induction ceremony into the Basketball Hall of Fame, Magic assistant Patrick Ewing takes a look back at his career
Courtesy of orlandosentinel.com

ORLANDO, FL- Orlando Magic assistant coach Patrick Ewing caps an improbable journey when he is inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame tonight in Springfield, Mass., in a ceremony that will be televised by ESPN Classic.

Ewing didn't start playing the game until he was 12 years old in his native Jamaica, preferring cricket and soccer. But he became one of its most decorated centers after his family settled in the U.S.

He was a three-time All-American at Georgetown, leading the Hoyas to an NCAA title in 1984. Ewing then launched a 17-year NBA career -- including 15 seasons with the New York Knicks -- and was named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary Team. He also was a two-time Olympic gold medalist, playing for the famed "Dream Team" in 1992.

Ewing spoke with the Sentinel about his career and his upcoming hall-of-fame induction.

Q: Most star players say they don't realize the breadth of their accomplishments until they retire. Has it hit you as you prepare your induction speech?

PE: I think that's definitely true. When I was playing, I didn't have time to think about it. My only goal was to win a (NBA) title. Now that it's (the induction) here, I'm very honored, very humbled.

I tell people all the time that I was this kid from Jamaica who never really played basketball and when I was in high school (at Cambridge, Mass.), we took a field trip to the Hall of Fame in Springfield. I never thought one day that I might possibly be IN there and that other people would be coming to look at me.

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Q: How's the speech coming?

PE: It's mostly going to be thanking all the people who helped me and it's a long, long list.

* * *

Q: How do you rate your career?

PE: I had a great career -- the title at Georgetown, winning the Olympic gold medals. About the only thing I didn't get was an NBA championship. That's the only thing where there's disappointment. There were some years where I thought I should have won MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards, but didn't. But not getting that title (as a Knick) -- we had two chances -- that's what hurts the most. It just wasn't in the cards.

* * *

Q: Knicks fans still don't let you forget that?

PE: (laughs): I bet they wish I was still playing! I guess I had a love-hate relationship with them. At some point they loved me and at some point they hated me. But I think they respected what I brought to the table. They're vocal with their beliefs.

* * *

Q: But every time you show up in the Garden now, they give you a big ovation.

PE: It makes me feel good. I gave it my all and tried to bring a championship to New York.

* * *

Q: Team USA redeemed itself. What do you remember about playing on the original Dream Team?

PE: What a great experience. Playing with Michael Jordan and the rest . . . it was just wonderful. You were representing the whole country. We knew nobody would beat us.

* * *

Q: Do you expect your star pupil, Dwight Howard, to flash his gold medal and talk trash?

PE: Yeah, well I got two of them! Dwight is supposed to believe in his team. They might have given us a run for our money, but wouldn't have beaten us.

* * *

Q: Some people are surprised you are coaching. Most star players don't travel that route.

PE: I'd be bored playing golf or whatever. I didn't know what I wanted to do, but then Michael [Jordan] called when he was with Washington. He said come sit on the bench and see if you like it and if you don't, we'll move you to the front office. I found that I liked coaching, and my love for it kept getting bigger and bigger.

* * *

Q: And now you want to be an NBA head coach.

PE: Definitely. This summer, in Orlando, coaching in the summer league, convinced me. You know, as an assistant coach, you might have some doubts: Would I be a good coach? But all my knowledge came out, and I felt good in that seat.

* * *

Q: You've said that it seems to take big men longer to land head coaching jobs. How long will you chase this dream?

PE: Hopefully, I'll get a fair chance. I have a year left on my contract here [with the Magic]. I'll keep doing it until I don't feel I'm getting a fair shot. Then I'll mosey into the sunset and do something else.

* * *

Q: You're remembered playing with a scowl on your face during your career. Do you think you'll cry during your speech?

PE: Most of my friends are betting I will. I better have my game face on.


Brian Schmitz can be reached at bschmitz@orlandosentinel.com.