Patrick Ewing has been an assistant coach in the NBA since he retired from playing in 2002. During that time, spent first with the Washington Wizards and now with the Orlando Magic, he's become increasingly keen on advancing to a head-coaching job somewhere, and each time New York has had a vacancy, his name has come up. Like most of the rest of the league, though, the Knicks haven't returned interest and haven't even granted him an interview. Undeterred, Ewing reiterated his interest in head coaching — in New York or otherwise — when the Magic were in New York last night. From ESPN's Ian O'Connor:
"I'd be interested in any job, but this is home, naturally," Ewing said. "I still have my place here (in New Jersey), and I'd love to interview for any job, here or anywhere.
"I played here. I know the ins and outs of New York, the media, the fans."
Now, a few somewhat related things:
1. Ewing, as he notes in the article linked above, has been an assistant coach for almost a decade and has made himself available for head-coaching jobs for much of that almost-decade, but has gotten exactly one interview, with the Pistons (who eventually turned Ewing down in favor of Lawrence Frank) last summer. That's pretty weird. There's a feeling that Ewing — who's been Dwight Howard's tutor in Orlando — has been pigeonholed as a "big man coach," but still: one interview? Just one? And he (according to that article) needed Dave Checketts's help to land it? And through all that time, the Knicks — a team that's employed Herb Williams forever, is grooming Allan Houston for a managerial position, and keeps John Starks around for community outreach stuff, to name a few — haven't expressed any interest in hiring one of their most legendary players in any capacity? It's just bizarre, and it seems sort of like there's more to this story that we're not hearing.
2. Ewing, speaking to Marc Berman of the Post, had the following to say:
“I hope. I hope,’’ Ewing said. “ There already three teams without a head coach. I’m hoping get an interview with all of them and hope I land one. That’s why I work and study. I’m waiting for the opportunity.’’
While the sentiment is reasonable, it's a bit uncouth to say that the teams that have parted ways with coaches this season are "without a head coach." Kaleb Canales in Portland, Randy Wittman in Washington, and Mike Woodson (who's 8–1, by the way) here in New York all bear the "interim" qualifier, but they are head coaches. Woodson in particular seems a decent candidate to lock up his job long-term, especially if the Knicks continue on their recent path. As Jeff Van Gundy noted when discussing the same topic with regards to his own prospects, it's kind of tacky to campaign for a job in season and while somebody is currently trying to do that job.
3. Knicks fans' relationship with Ewing was far from perfect, but he's still adored and revered here in New York. The guy has visited New York a couple of times a year for quite some time, and he still got a prolonged standing ovation (and, I hear, a video tribute) during last night's game. Even without a championship ring, Ewing's jersey hangs in the rafters and his name still makes Knick fans over a certain age swoon (full disclosure: I am juuuust above that certain age) and wax nostalgic. O'Connor suggests that returning to win a ring would render Ewing's New York legacy complete, but consider the alternate and, historically speaking, more likely possibility. Especially since James Dolan's been in charge, Knick coaches tend to leave on unpleasant terms. Some of the brightest minds and most famous faces in basketball have been run straight out of town. Even if Ewing were to draw interest and get hired, he'd be a new coach with quite an imposing task ahead of him and a mostly pleasant legacy at risk of being tarnished should things go wrong.
It's a curious situation, and one in which I might personally lack some historical perspective. (For instance, Willis Reed coached the Knicks for a bit. Genuine question for those who remember: How'd that go?) It just seems like Ewing's crusade to become a head coach has met an unusually cold response from teams around the league, the Knicks in particular. One wonders if there isn't something to that and, at least here in New York, if both the Knicks and Ewing aren't better off keeping it that way.