During the 1990s, Patrick Ewing was rendered all but helpless while watching Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls march through his New York Knicks on their way to NBA Finals glory. During four of Jordan’s six championships, the road ran through NYC and the paint Ewing protected.
Now, the two ’90s stars (and fellow “Space Jam” actors) will reunite in an effort to find success together with the Charlotte Bobcats: Jordan as the owner; Ewing as an assistant coach.
Ewing, as first reported by Yahoo! Sports, has agreed in principle to become Charlotte’s associate head coach, working alongside new head coach Steve Clifford. The report has since been confirmed by multiple outlets.
A formal announcement is expected later this week.
Clifford and Ewing have strong ties. The two worked together on Stan Van Gundy’s staff in Orlando before Clifford accompanied former Magic center Dwight Howard to Los Angeles last season. Clifford and Ewing also worked together on Jeff Van Gundy’s Houston staff for four years.
Of course, the Jordan-Ewing public dynamic goes back even further. Not only did Jordan’s North Carolina Tar Heels defeat Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas for the 1982 NCAA title, but the two were members of the famed Dream Team at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and were both represented by the same player agent, David Falk.
Ewing, 50, took last season off from coaching after failing to land the open Bobcats head coaching position a year ago. He, along with eight other candidates, was bypassed in favor of St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap, who was fired after one season. He served as a part-time NBA broadcaster during his time away from coaching.
The Hall of Famer also drew interest from the Sacramento Kings this offseason.
A former All-NBA center, Ewing has worked with the likes of big men Howard and Yao Ming during his coaching career. Interior play is a noted weakness on the Bobcats roster: Post players Bismack Biyombo (No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 draft), Brendan Haywood, Josh McRoberts and DeSagana Diop combined to score just 18.3 points per game last season. Ewing averaged 21.0 points over 17 NBA seasons — not that he’ll be taking the court, but surely he can provide a few pointers in that area.
Since Jordan took over the franchise in 2010, the Bobcats have a 106-206 record — far below their Hall of Fame owner’s expectations. They finished 21-61 last season.
With the arrival of Ewing and an impending change back to their original Hornets nickname, the Charlotte franchise is beginning to take on a nostalgic feel … except for the fact that the Jordan-Ewing rivalry has flipped the script.
Onetime rivals have joined forces in helping turn around a franchise both hope is on the rise.