by Rob Joyce
After a disappointing 14-18 season Georgetown fired longtime head coach John Thompson III last month. In his place they’ll go to a familiar name in Hoyas’ lore – Patrick Ewing. The Georgetown legend and Basketball Hall of Famer has been a longtime NBA assistant since his retirement and will take over at the school where he won the 1984 national title and was named a first-team All-American three straight years.
Ewing is hardly the first former player to make the move from alumnus to coach. Here are some other active Division-I coaches who are on the sidelines at their alma maters:
A native West Virginian, Huggins started his collegiate career at Ohio University, transferring to WVU after his freshman season. After scoring 800 points in his time in Morgantown he spent a season with the Mountaineers as a grad assistant. Fast forward to his head coaching career, after successful stints at Akron and Cincinnati, he was a year into his tenure at Kansas State when he accepted an offer to coach his alma mater. He’s been with West Virginia since 2007, having taken the Mountaineers to eight NCAA Tournaments, including the Final Four in 2010.
With no head coaching experience at any level, St. John’s took a chance by hiring their most famous player prior to the 2015-16 season. A three-time Big East Player of the Year during the conference’s heyday, Mullin would go from Queens to a Hall of Fame NBA career. From year one to year two the Red Storm nearly doubled their win total this past year.
After spending 17 years at Pitt, including 13 as the head coach, Dixon surprised many by leaving the Panthers for TCU after last season. As a player for the Frogs Dixon led the Horned Frogs to Southwest Conference titles in his final two years before graduating. A perennial bottom-feeder in the Big 12, Dixon the coach immediately turned the program around, winning six league games for the first time ever and taking home the NIT championship.
Boeheim walked on at Syracuse his freshman year. Fast forward three years and he and teammate Dave Bing led the Orange to their second NCAA Tournament berth. After a brief pro career, Boeheim became a grad assistant in central New York, moving up to full-time assistant shortly after that, then of course becoming head coach in 1976. The rest is history: over 1000 wins (including ones vacated by the NCAA), five Final Four appearances and the 2003 national championship for the Hall of Famer.
After a 13-year NBA career where he was considered a valuable mentor, Ollie returned to Storrs in 2010 as an assistant under Jim Calhoun. When Calhoun retired two years later, Ollie was given the reigns to the Huskies, and made an immediate impact, winning the NCAA Tournament in just his second season in 2014.
Unlike everyone else on this list, Williams made little-to-no impact at his alma mater on the floor. He played on North Carolina’s freshman team, but after that he was essentially a grad assistant, taking notes and watching how Dean Smith coached. He became an assistant under Smith in 1978, spending a decade in Chapel Hill before becoming the head man at Kansas. After taking the Jayhawks to the national title game in 2003 he left to return to UNC. Since then he’s won three national titles (2005, 2009 and, of course, Monday night) and lost another on Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater in 2016 against Villanova.