Patrick Ewing climbed the ladder — only a few steps needed for the 7-footer — clipped the last string and held the net high.
Georgetown is champion of the Big East again, with the greatest Hoya of them all leading the way.
Ewing is taking Georgetown back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015 after the eighth-seeded Hoyas completed a surprising run to a Big East crown Saturday night with a stunning 73-48 rout of No. 17 Creighton.
On the 49th anniversary of the day Georgetown hired John Thompson, the late Hall of Fame coach who transformed the program into a national power and one of the most iconic brands in college basketball history, the Hoyas won their record eighth Big East tournament title and first since 2007.
Was it fate? Destiny? Maybe Big John, who died in August at age 78, smiling down on Ewing and his Hoyas?
“I think so,” Ewing said.
Ewing miffed at being ‘accosted’ by MSG security
His team won with a dominant performance inside Madison Square Garden reminiscent of now-Coach Ewing’s playing days at Georgetown.
The Hoyas (13-12) closed the first half on a 23-2 run that put them up 18 at the break against second-seeded Creighton (20-8). Then they picked right up early in the second half with a 16-3 spurt. Chudier Bile knocked down a 3-pointer — holding the follow-through for a beat — with 14 minutes, 58 seconds left that made it 52-21.
Ewing called it a huge step for a program that has struggled to recapture old glory, and that started this season picked to finish last in the Big East.
“A lot of people discredited. Talked bad about us. We believed in ourselves. We worked hard. We fought hard,” he said.
Ewing wondered aloud earlier this week if they had forgotten him at MSG. He complained that security asked to see his credentials as he was moving around the building where he starred for the New York Knicks and his No. 33 jersey hangs from the rafters.
Ewing said this championship was “right up there” with his greatest moments at The Garden.
“Different chapter of my life,” he said.
Bile matched a season high with 19 points and Jahvon Blair had 18 and went 4-for-7 from 3-point range for Georgetown. After missing 12 of their first 14 shots, the Hoyas finished shooting 46.6% from the floor.
Marcus Zegarowski scored 17 points to lead Creighton, which is 0-3 in Big East title games since joining the conference for the 2013-14 season.
Georgetown fans, the few dozen who were in the mostly empty building because of COVID-19 restrictions, chanted, “This is our house!” as the Hoyas prepared to accept the championship trophy. Ewing carried a T-shirt with Thompson’s image on it, his old coach’s fist raised high.
“Just to see how happy he is, it makes me happy,” Blair said about Ewing. “I’m just so happy for him.”
Ewing and Thompson combined for three Big East tournament championships, three Final Four appearances and a national title in 1984 during their time together at Georgetown.
Ewing aspired to be a head coach like his mentor. He spent 15 years as an assistant in the NBA, never getting a shot to be head coach — until his alma mater came calling.
“I’m here where a lot of people didn’t think I had the ability to [be],” Ewing said. “And I’m proving everyone wrong.”
The 58-year-old Ewing is in his fourth season with the Hoyas, and up until this week there hadn’t been much to get excited about. The only postseason tournament appearance was a one-game stay in the 2019 NIT. At the start of this tournament, Ewing’s record was 58-58 as head coach.
Now he is the first person in Big East history to be the most outstanding player on a Big East tournament champion and coach a team to a Big East tournament title.
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