As you may have heard, Georgetown has hired Patrick Ewing to be the men’s basketball coach. Largely speaking, you can consider Ewing to be the best player in Hoyas history, as he currently - not when he finished his career, currently - is #2 all-time in points, #1 all time in rebounds, and #1 all time in blocked shots. That’s pretty good!
With that kind of basketball playing ability now patrolling the sidelines in the Big East, the question that immediately comes to mind is thus: How do the Big East coaches rank against each other in terms of basketball playing ability?
Obviously they’re all pretty good coaches (ok, jury’s out a little bit on Chris Mullin, but work with me here) to be coaching in this league, but how do they compare as players?
We’re going to rank the coaches as if they were being chosen in a pickup game. We’ll consider each coach’s collegiate and professional resume and give them credit for all of that, and presume that even now, past their athletic primes, they can still get up and down the court a bit.
#1 - Patrick Ewing, Georgetown
Being Georgetown’s best ever gives Ewing a pretty solid case for the top spot. He won a Final Four Most Outstanding Player award in 1984 and a national player of the year award in 1985. Ewing was a three-time consensus First Team All-American, and Big East Player of the Year twice. That’s just his collegiate career, as he was an 11 time NBA All-Star and was first or second team All-NBA seven times. That’s just his college career, as he currently ranks 21st all time in NBA history in points, 25th in rebounds, and seventh in blocks. Oh, and Ewing is in the Naismith Hall of Fame AND the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
#2 - Chris Mullin, St. John’s
You can make arguments about how things are going for the Red Storm under Mullin’s guidance, but you can’t argue about his playing credentials. Even though he played in the 1980s, his 2,440 points are still a program record, and as you might expect, he was Big East Player of the Year three times, and yes, he’s the only guy to ever accomplish that. Mullin was a second team All-American as a junior and a first team All-American as a senior, guiding St. John’s to the Final Four as one of three Big East teams in the national semifinals that season. That’s obviously good enough to be a College Basketball Hall of Famer, and he’s in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a result of his pro career, too. He’s top 100 in points and steals in NBA history, made five NBA All-Star games, one All-NBA First Team, two Second Teams, and one Third Team.
#3 - Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette
So, there’s a bit of a drop off from #2 to #3. Oh well, these things happen.
After being a McDonalds All-American in high school, Wojo worked his way up to being named Defensive Player of the Year by the coaches’ association as a senior, as well as earning all-ACC honors and tabbed as an honorable mention All-American by the Associated Press. At least at the start of the 2016-17 season, Wojciechowski was #9 all time in Duke history in assists and steals, and he holds the Duke records for assist-to-turnover ratio in a season, three-point percentage in a game, and steals in a game.
#4 - Greg McDermott, Creighton
Coach McDermott? Sneaky tall! He was a 6’8” center for Northern Iowa back in the day. He’s still #36 on UNI’s all time scoring chart, and has a pro season in Switzerland under his belt. Fun Fact: Iowa has a high school sports Hall of Fame! I know this because McDermott is in it thanks to his prep career at Cascade High School.
#5 - Dave Leitao, DePaul
This is probably the highest that you’ll ever see DePaul ranked in a men’s basketball conversation on this website in some time, so savor it while you can. Leitao had a solid career at Northeastern playing for Jim Calhoun, averaging six points and five rebounds. They made it into two NCAA tournaments and advanced to the 2nd round in Leitao’s senior year. The Huskies lost a triple overtime game to advance, but Leitao played over 50 minutes in it. That’s something.
#6 - Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
After transferring from Western Kentucky as a freshman, Willard appeared in 75 games over three seasons at Pitt. He didn’t really make a dent with the Panthers (made the Big East All-Academic Team, though), but he did shoot over 40% from long range in his one season at WKU.
#7 - Chris Mack, Xavier
Like Willard, Mack transferred schools during his collegiate career. He played two years at Evansville before moving on to Xavier, where he eventually earned his degree. He was a two year captain of the Musketeers, and was a part of NCAA tournament teams for both Evansville and XU.
#8 - Chris Holtmann, Butler
Now I suppose you’re wondering how a guy who was an All-American in hoops is this far down the list. Well, it’s simple: Holtmann played his college ball in the NAIA at Taylor University. Still, being an All-American is pretty great at any level! That’s still good enough to not be last here! He earned those honors in the 1993-94 season, where he guided Taylor to a 25-9 record, a #1 ranking, and an NAIA national championship tournament appearance.
#9 - Ed Cooley, Providence
After being Rhode Island Player of the Year twice in his prep career, Cooley played college hoops at Division 2 Stonehill College. He was a three year captain of the team, and thus ends all the information I have about his collegiate career.
#10 - Jay Wright, Villanova
Did I partially put Jay Wright last on the list because it’s funny? Little bit. It’s also probably true. Wright played at Bucknell and garnered team MVP and team leadership awards during his tenure. That is the sum total of information I have about Jay Wright’s basketball career. Oh, wait, no, one more thing: He once scored 69 points in a game as a high school player for Council Rock High School.