Patrick Ewing mostly kept his hands in his suit pockets as he paced the Madison Square Garden sideline. The 7-footer had already served his tenure banging-and-bumping at the Garden for 15 years and over 35,000 minutes logged as a New York Knick, so he could be excused for playing it cool as coach.
"My body still aches from the years I played here," Ewing said, laughing.
If the body suffered, the nostalgia at least felt sweet at the Garden for the returning Knicks great and Georgetown coach, and more than a little familiar. Ewing was back at his professional home and got the better of Chris Mullin and St. John's one more time in a throwback to their Big East days of the 1980s.
"This is what dreams are made of," Ewing said.
Jessie Govan hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to put the Hoyas ahead with 25 seconds left and they held on to beat the Red Storm 69-66 on Tuesday night at MSG.
Ewing walked off the court pumping his fist to the hearty calls of "Patrick! Patrick!" and high-fived a few fans just a few sections over from where his retired No. 33 hangs in the rafters. Ewing's return to New York even included his usual postgame ritual.
"I'm going to go ice my elbow right now," Ewing said.
He also wiped his sweaty head with a towel like his mentor , former Georgetown coach John Thompson.
Ewing and Mullin squared off as coaches of their alma maters for the first time, sparking memories of their glory days when Georgetown went 3-1 vs. the Red Storm in 1984-85 and the teams were ranked in the top three for all four meetings.
"Someone asked me today, what's the chance you thought this would happen," Mullin said. "I said, '100 percent never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be here in 2018 coaching St. John's against Patrick Ewing coaching Georgetown.'"
Ewing was cheered from the moment he walked out of the tunnel and gave a fist-bump and hug to an arena security guard. He walked toward the St. John's bench and pulled in Mullin for a hearty embrace . They posed for pictures and pointed and shouted toward some familiar faces in the stands. Ewing heard all cheers from the thousands at MSG, maybe even from the Knicks diehards who plunked down $160 bucks for a No. 33 jersey at the team store on the concourse.
Ewing's image is plastered inside and out at the Garden where he forged a Hall of Fame career. The most popular photo in the joint saw his arms outstretched and his back toward the camera from the May 22, 1994 Game 7 win over the Chicago Bulls in the conference semis. His game-worn jersey and sneakers are encased in glass on the concourse and top tickets on Stubhub ran about $180 a pop just before tip.
Mullin, the flat-topped Golden State Warriors great, kept his share of fans even as the Red Storm continue to slog through another depressing season. One fan held a sign that read, "Coach M, WOODEN it be nice to TOP Patrick, again. GO STORM!!" Mullin was the 1985 John Wooden Award winner given to the most outstanding player in college basketball.
While Ewing stalked the sideline, Mullin gestured, waved hand signals and pulled a piece of paper out his pocket for an occasional glance at the playbook.
But Ewing was quick to bellow, "Rebound! Go!" the kind of commands that had to even please former St. John's coach Lou Carnesecca in the stands.
Ewing wore a dark winter cap and Mullin had his head covered by a hoodie as they shook hands in a photo that had more than 1,600 likes by tipoff on Georgetown's Twitter account.
"We've known each so long and been through so many things that it was just another thing we're doing," Mullin said.
Ewing and Mullin would have been one-and-done players in this era but instead their identities are forever linked with their college heyday. Mullin led the Red Storm to the 1985 Final Four, a No. 1 ranking and finished his career as the program's career leading scorer. Ewing personified the "Hoya Paranoia" under Thompson and took the program to the 1984 national championship. Ewing and the Hoyas beat Mullin and St. John's in one of the 1985 Final Four games — where Georgetown would then get upset by Villanova in the title game.
This one was far from a Big East classic and served as a stark reminder of how just far these programs are from the days when Mullin and Ewing, teammates on two Olympic teams, dominated the game instead of watching one in suits. The Big East teams shot a combined 4 for 23 in the first half from 3-point range and crowd enthusiasm waned until the final minutes after both coaches were introduced.
Georgetown: Govan had 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Hoyas (12-4, 2-3 Big East). Marcus Derrickson scored 17 points. "We definitely wanted to come out and get this one for him," Govan said.
St. John's: Shamorie Ponds scored 17 points for St. John's (10-7, 0-5) and Justin Simon had 16.
Ewing laughed when noticed Mullin wore a tie for the game. "I wore it just for you ," Mullin told him when they exchanged pregame pleasantries.
Georgetown: The Hoyas play Saturday at No. 13 Seton Hall and then Jan. 17 at home against No. 1 Villanova.
St. John's: The Red Storm are back at MSG Saturday to play No. 1 Villanova and Jan. 17 at No. 10 Xavier.
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