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Patrick Ewing: The Bobcats’ next coach?


Before Stan Van Gundy was fired,  one of the biggest head-coaching rumors of the spring, the Orlando Magic opened their gates and allowed the Charlotte Bobcats to interview Patrick Ewing for their vacant head coaching position. The Associated Press reported that Ewing was up for an interview with Charlotte management, which could have major implications throughout the league.

Reports out of Orlando said that the Magic were not interested in retaining Ewing as the team’s head coach before their decision to fire Van Gundy and nobody knows whether Ewing, or any of Orlando’s other assistant coaches, will remain with the team. With the Magic thinking big with their next head coach and general manager hiring, Ewing is looking for his next job.

And he has made it no secret that he wants to be a head coach, having interviewed with the Pistons last year before they filled their vacancy with Lawrence Frank.

Patrick Ewing has spent about nine seasons as an NBA assistant coach and is obviously highly regarded from his playing days with the Knicks. His coaching resume includes one seasonwith the Washington Wizards, three seasons with the Houston Rockets and five seasons with Stan Van Gundy in Orlando. Ewing has long stated that he would be interested in a head coaching job. Adding to the intrigue with Charlotte, Ewing is also on good terms with Charlotte’s owner, Michael Jordan.

Van Gundy has enthusiastically endorsed Ewing for any head coaching job. During exit interviews, Van Gundy said of Ewing:

“I think he would really focus on the details of execution and hold guys to a high standard of that. Look, I think the guy will be a great head coach. I can’t believe it’s taken this long. I don’t know what the problem is in terms of people’s perception. There are so many other ex-players who can get a shot. He’s ready, and I hope this offseason will be his time.”

It certainly might have to be with Ewing likely looking for a new job one way or another.

Ewing, of course, had a storied career with the Knicks. But will his experience on the court and on the assistant’s bench bring the Bobcats to their feet next season? We cannot predict what will happen, but it sure does make a promising note.

The Magic might be losing a valuable piece to their team with Van Gundy gone and Ewing potentially leaving with him.

“If [Ewing] goes, we’ll lose one important piece of the puzzle,” said Robert Pflueger, a financial adviser to the Orlando Magic ticket sales department.”But that’s life and that’s his choice.”

Of course, the decision is not Ewing’s to make alone. The Bobcats also have expressed interest in Indiana assistant Brian Shaw, former Portland and Seattle coach Nate McMillan and former Utah coach Jerry Sloan, sources said. The Magic will be interested in those names too. Bobcats assistant Stephen Silas, son of recently released coach Paul Silas, also will be interviewed, according to sources.

However, it leaves three big, lingering questions if Ewing ultimately does decide to go, which given theprestige of Ewing’s name alone is a distinct possibility. He is reportedly quite high on the Bobcats list.

1. What happens to Dwight’s trade demands this summer?

Reportedly Howard and Ewing were close. Dwight’s trade speculation and subsequent relationship with the media has been significantly publicized already. If Ewing and him are as close as reported, and considering how rare elite big men in the game really are it’s probably true, would losing Ewing be the last straw for Howard? Are we literally seeing the last days of Howard’s brilliance in Orlando?

Howard seemed to want Van Gundy gone, so having Ewing leave with Van Gundy might end up being an unfortunate consequence of Van Gundy’s departure.

2. Will Ewing turn out to be a good coach?

The big challenge  Ewing will face undoubtedly is the fact that coaches are ultimately measured first and foremost by wins. As awesome as Phil Jackson‘s career has been, he has also been surrounded by some elite talent to harness with his coaching brilliance. At this point, Patrick Ewing is still probably better than most of the Bobcats’ players. Perhaps he can bring Reggie Miller out or retirement to give that team some real competition.

The bottom line is that the Bobcats situation is bad and it might ultimately damage the perception of him going forward as a good coach, regardless of how talented he may or may not be. That is the risk of having your first head coaching job be with a young, inexperienced team.

3. Will Ewing and MJ clash?

As for superstars, Ewing and MJ are anything but giant divas. However, ultimately only one guy can call the shots. Can these two massive legends co-exist?

There is always the possibility that either Ewing passively does his job without personnel input and lets Jordan dominate or tries to take a more forward role in basketball operations. Given Jordan’s player decisions since taking over the Bobcats, it could be a recipe for disaster for Ewing’s coaching career. I mean, it is not like Red Auerbach could make this team a 20-win team and that might even be true after they add a top pick inthe upcoming draft.

What is quietly ignored in all the hoopla is that Ewing’s professional resume and calm demeanor ultimately lead credence to that fact that he should be a head coach, now or later. While he is anything but an underdog, you cannot help but wish the best for a guy who is as blue collar as they come.

No matter what the decision is, it is probably much needed due for Ewing’s coaching career. As long as he leaves on good terms, you cannot help but root for him. He was always a class act as a player and nowas a potential coach.

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