A little more than a month since a scandal rocked the Georgetown University basketball program, we can safely look back and reflect on what the hell actually happened.
Essentially, on Dec. 2, we were informed that star guard James Akinjo and reserve forward Josh Leblanc would be leaving the program. This came in the wake of a bombshell report that implicated Leblanc and forwards Galen Alexander and Myron Gardner. All three were alleged perpetrators in a burglary, sexual harassment, and assault case that made its way to a D.C. Superior Court case. In a program with a historically clean record, the circumstance seemed tragic considering Georgetown is slated to make the NCAA Tournament. The three players were role players, and only Leblanc left the school as of Dec. 2 due to the complaint, so the team carried on.
But James Akinjo, the man who has been called the “best guard in the nation” by the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, suddenly left the school as well on Dec. 2. It has now surfaced that Head Coach and NBA legend Patrick Ewing had insulted Akinjo’s late mother during practice, and thus Georgetown lost another valuable player. Ewing has turned a struggling Georgetown program into a contender for the Big East again, who was in play for major high school prospects and were on the cusp of ranking in the top 25. But in an instance like this, Georgetown as an institution needs to be transparent. They need to look at this situation and its repercussions and fire Ewing immediately. If the internal investigation into the incident shows that Ewing had no knowledge of Akinjo’s mother’s passing, then so be it. But as a head coach for one of the most widely respected programs in the history of the game, you cannot say things of that nature. Georgetown needs to set an example of a program that practices common human decency.
Ewing’s head coaching career with Georgetown is 46-35 since his hiring in 2017 and is 16-25 in Big East play. Despite taking over from a legendary coaching system, Ewing did it seamlessly. His coaching tactics have honestly been subpar with shocking play calling at times, but his ability to manage, motivate, and be a players’ coach has been the staple of his tenure. That being said, Georgetown needs a new coach. This sort of scandal along with a team culture in the toilet calls for a change of regimes.
Now let’s talk replacements. A coach who has excelled at a mid-major would be an exceptional hire for the Hoyas. However, someone who has caught my eye is former Virginia Commonwealth University Head Coach Shaka Smart. He is currently the head coach at Texas, but that could change soon. Following a 97-59 loss at West Virginia, calls for his firing are aplenty. That specific game might be a turn-off for some, but honestly, it seemed Smart was the only piece of the puzzle to be working that night. The players weren’t playing their best, but the unwritten rule of sports is to fire the coach before the players. What Smart did at VCU was incredible. He led a perennial .500 team to an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament in just his second season. And then he led them on a run for the ages. As an 11th-seed, they beat USC, Georgetown, Purdue, FSU, and Kansas en route to the first Final Four appearance in school history. With Texas seeming to want a culture change of their own, a partnership of Shaka Smart and Georgetown might be in one another’s best interests.
All of this being said, Georgetown needs a change from both a coaching and cultural standpoint. With an underperforming team and a locker room brimming with tension, a new figure at the helm is necessary for the Hoyas to maximize their potential on the court. Essentially, the integrity of a legendary program is at risk here if the school doesn’t handle this situation in the proper way.