Patrick Ewing was an NCAA champion, a consensus National Player of the Year, a No. 1 overall pick, an NBA Rookie of the Year, an 11-time All-Star and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. He is also a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, has served as an assistant coach for more than a decade and is currently the associate head coach for the Charlotte Hornets.
All of which is to say he is a basketball icon – and yet, he has never been a head coach in the NBA.
Is there any rationale for that?
“None,” former NBA head coach and GM and current NBA-TV analyst Stu Jackson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Given the level of player that he was, the pedigree that he beings and dare I say the coaches he has worked with – most recently Steve Clifford – he has the resume to be a head-coaching candidate and he has the resume to be a head coach in the NBA and be successful. To me, he’s got the formula. He’s a very good interpersonal communicator, very hard worker. I don’t want to think negatively. He’s going to get a shot at some point. I just don’t know when.”
Brian Jones and Gregg Giannotti don’t know what Ewing’s issue has been. He – and his resume – check out wonderfully, and he’s dying to be a head coach. It just hasn’t happened.
What has been his main problem? Is he just not interviewing well?
“I don’t think we can say,” said Jackson, who coached Ewing in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “It’s tough when you’re on the outside looking in and not knowing how he interviews. But I can tell you from my own personal experience that the guy is just a mountain of a man, a terrific communicator, has great knowledge of the game, has a great work ethic – listen, he’ll get his shot. Sometimes it takes guy a little longer than others, and unfortunately he is in that category.”
Ewing may get his opportunity this offseason, especially with some head-coaching vacancies on the horizon. Jackson, who coached the Knicks and the Grizzlies, has noticed a seismic shift in the NBA’s head-coaching climate. It seems that coaches – such as Frank Vogel – are being fired left and right for seemingly no good reason.
“I’m not sure I really have the formula,” Jackson said. “Not to get nostalgic, (but) it used to be if you coached and you won games and you went deep into the playoffs, that was a successful season. Now it seems we’re in an era whereby it’s either you make the championship or you bust. Put another way, for coaches in the NBA, you have to now win and something else – and we don’t know what that something else really is. Whether it’s interaction with the front office, whether it’s ownership listening to players, we don’t know what it is. It’s just odd. It’s an odd time for coaching in the NBA. Quite frankly, I don’t know what to make of it.”