Since 2002, the greatest Knick of all time, once a staple in New York, has bounced around the league as an assistant coach, having stints with the Washington Wizards, Houston Rockets and the Orlando Magic.
Since the end of his playing days, Patrick Ewing has seen former teammates like Herb Williams, John Starks and Allan Houston all re-join the Knicks in post-playing career roles. Following his own departure, the Knicks have struggled mightily without a force such as Ewing in orange and blue.
Finally, with Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony now in town, and the Knicks on the verge of greatness once again, Ewing wants back in.
No. 33 appeared on The Mike Lupica Show on ESPN Radio earlier this week and relayed that he would in fact enjoy a return to the New York Knicks, expressing, “I hope that one day I get to come back home because I do live in this area, I still consider this my area, I still consider myself a Knick. Hopefully one day I’ll be brought back here.”
It’s certain that the fans would welcome Ewing back to New York with open arms, and his homecoming may just be one of the biggest celebration’s the city’s basketball atmosphere has seen in years. That being said, is the possibility of tarnishing his reputation worth the risk?
It’s no surprise that Ewing wants to come back to the franchise where he experienced his most success to lend an assist to the next class of Knickerbocker greatness. Still waiting (coming up on 10 years now) for a chance as a head coach, he has diligently worked longer as an assistant than most former players normally have to, being instrumental in the development of big men like Yao Ming and Dwight Howard over the years.
The questions that remain, even after all this time, are whether Ewing is simply more than a big man’s coach, and whether or not he could run his own team.
Ewing’s path back to the Knicks’ bench has been blocked, partially due to strained relationships over the years, but also because his friend and former teammate, Williams, already occupies the token "former Knick/big man’s coach” seat on the bench.
With Knicks’ brass pushing down hard on head coach Mike D’Antoni to hire a special defensive coach, an opportunity for all sides may be presenting itself in regard to the Ewing situation.
Since the offseason began, D’Antoni and the Knicks have (even if vaguely) looked at a number of candidates for the position, such as the now-Lakers coach Mike Brown, the recently hired Lawrence Frank of the Pistons and the still-unemployed Mike Woodson.
Aside from Woodson and a couple of other less likely candidates, the Knicks are seeing their list of potential hires quickly dwindle. With that said, the chance for Ewing to step into the crucial role and finally return to New York may be prime.
Hiring the “Big Fella,” who was certainly a strong defensive presence during his playing days, as the Knicks' new “defensive coordinator” would not only fill a very important role on the team’s bench going into next season, but also provides Ewing with the chance to prove he is more than just a big man specialist. In addition to having immediate approval from fans, Ewing is almost also certain not to overpower D’Antoni as a main authority on the Knicks bench, like some of the other candidates with head coaching experience just might.
If he is in fact able to solve even some or most (if not all) of his former team’s defensive woes, Ewing’s credibility as a potential man in charge is sure to go up tenfold. Having just been edged out by Frank for the Pistons head coaching position, time on the Knicks bench could be a springboard for another head coaching job in the near future for him.
Could one of those next available head coaching positions be with the Knicks? If the team’s brass like what they see from Ewing more than they do from D’Antoni in their first potential season together, perhaps the position Ewing has coveted for quite a while could be more in his reach than ever before.
For now, the objective is finding somebody to take on the burden of helping D’Antoni improve the current team’s defense. Such an obstacle could be a difficult one, and should he fail at the task, Ewing may not end up being remembered too fondly by Knicks fans after all.
Though, with all things considered, now seems like the perfect time for Ewing to rejoin the Knicks. He has an opportunity to help the team improve in some key areas while experiencing success in New York again as well.
The credibility, appreciation and excitement he would discover with the Knicks are all within Ewing’s grasp. It’s simply on the Knicks to now realize the kind of the opportunity they have to bring one of the city’s most celebrated athletes back home into a nice situation, while potentially fixing up their defense in the process.
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