Patrick Ewing, minutes after coaching Georgetown to a thrilling victory over rival Villanova in the Big East tournament, said he was annoyed by the security measures he has encountered this week at Madison Square Garden — the hub of his Hall of Fame NBA playing career.
The Hoyas’ 72-71 upset of the top-seeded Wildcats on Thursday was perhaps the most meaningful victory of Ewing’s coaching career. The former New York Knicks star said after the game, however, that he has been “getting stopped” and “accosted” at Madison Square Garden.
“I do want to say one thing, though. I thought this was my building,” Ewing said. “And I feel terrible that I’m getting stopped, accosted, [people] asking for passes.
“Everybody in this building should know who the hell I am, and I’m getting stopped — I can’t move around this building. I was like, ‘What the hell? Is this Madison Square Garden?'”
It was unclear as of Thursday afternoon who exactly has stopped Ewing, an NBA icon who joins Eli Manning and Derek Jeter on the short list of the most recognizable athletes ever to play for a New York City team.
“I thought this was my building, and I feel terrible that I’m getting stopped, accosted, [people] asking for passes. Everybody in this building should know who the hell I am, and I’m getting stopped — I can’t move around this building. I was like, ‘What the hell? Is this Madison Square Garden?'”
Georgetown coach and former Knicks star Patrick Ewing
The 7-footer was an 11-time All-Star who averaged 22.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game during his 15 seasons with the Knicks, who reached the NBA Finals twice (1994, 1999) during his time in New York.
The Knicks retired Ewing’s No. 33 in 2003, and the player-turned-coach joked that he will remind James Dolan, the Knicks owner and Madison Square Garden CEO, that his jersey still hangs “in the rafters.”
“I’m going to have to call Mr. Dolan and say, ‘Geez, is my number in the rafters or what?'” he said.
MSG Entertainment released a statement to ESPN later in the day that read: “[James Dolan] and Patrick have a long-standing relationship; they spoke this afternoon and reaffirmed that. We all know, respect and appreciate what he means to The Garden and New York. Good luck to him and his Hoyas in the Big East semi-finals.”
Security guidelines and protocols at major sporting events around the country, including Madison Square Garden, have significantly changed due to COVID-19.
But Ewing also isn’t the first Knicks legend to feel disrespected in his former home arena.
In 2017, Charles Oakley was famously removed from a game and arrested after an altercation with the building’s security personnel. Last year, Spike Lee — the movie director and Knicks superfan — said he was “done” watching his favorite team’s home games after he was told he could no longer use an employee entrance to get to his courtside seat.
Ewing is in his fourth season coaching his alma mater, and the Hoyas are back in the Big East tournament semifinals for the first time in six years.
Dante Harris scored 18 points and made two free throws with 4.7 seconds left to cap a perfect game from the line for eighth-seeded Georgetown (11-12), which will play Seton Hall on Friday night. Georgetown hasn’t won the conference tournament since 2007.
Villanova, which has won the past three conference tournament titles, had won four straight meetings and 13 of 15 against the Hoyas before Thursday.
“We played against the Cadillac, the Bentley, whatever you want to call them, of the Big East — the class of the Big East. And once upon a time that was us. But we took a huge step to be able to knock them off,” Ewing said.
Georgetown will need a Big East tournament title to get into the field of 68 on Sunday for the NCAA tournament. Although the Hoyas started the season at 5-10, they’ve won six of their past eight games, including victories over Villanova, Xavier and Seton Hall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.