CHARLOTTE, N.C. – As a player Patrick Ewing never envisioned himself as an NBA head coach.
Now he can’t wait to become one.
The Hall of Famer who played 17 seasons in the NBA and has spent nine more as an assistant coach said he’s not angry about being passed over again for a head coaching job.
Ewing, 50, said it’s only going to drive him to work harder to reach that ultimate goal.
“Every now and again I’m discouraged, but I look at it like, ‘Hey, I’m going to keep on working,’ ” Ewing said Tuesday. “Right now I’m blessed to have the opportunity to be coaching in the league. Every experience is a learning experience.”
Ewing was out of the league last year, but was hired in June by Bobcats coach Steve Clifford as the team’s associate head coach. The two previously worked together for eight seasons as assistants with the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets.
“It was a no-brainer,” Clifford said of the hire.
Ewing interviewed for the Charlotte head coaching vacancy last summer, and for Detroit’s in 2011.
“When I interviewed for the Bobcats job here and didn’t get it, I didn’t think it was in the cards for me,” Ewing said. “But when Cliff got the job this year, I thought it was a great opportunity. Being the first assistant, that’s going to be a great learning experience and will allow me to continue my tutelage and hopefully become a very good NBA coach someday.”
It even surprises Ewing that he wants so badly to become a head coach.
“When I was playing in the NBA I never thought I would want to be a coach,” Ewing said.
But in some ways Ewing was a coach at the time.
While playing for the New York Knicks he’d regularly return to his alma mater Georgetown and teach Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo many of the low post moves he’d learned at the pro level.
He’d also spend endless hours working with his oldest son, Patrick Ewing Jr., now a member of the Bobcats summer league team.
After his retirement in 2002, Ewing bumped into longtime friend and former Dream Team teammate Michael Jordan and the two began talking about the future.
“I told Michael I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Ewing said.
Jordan, then an executive with the Washington Wizards, offered Ewing a spot as an assistant coach working behind the bench.
“They didn’t have a spot for me, so they created a spot,” Ewing said.
Ewing said he knew right away coaching was what he wanted to do in his post-playing career.
But the road to get to the top spot has been a struggle as less qualified candidates have been selected for NBA head coaching positions ahead of him.
Clifford has no doubts Ewing will get a shot at being an NBA coach.
“He has all of the qualities that would make for a great coach,” Clifford said. “He has a passion for the game, great knowledge and tremendous work ethic.”