- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Patrick Ewing is going right from the court to the Washington Wizards' bench as a coach.

Ewing, 40, announced his retirement as a player yesterday after 17 years in the NBA, 15 with New York, and will join the Wizards as an assistant coach.

"It was a hard decision because I feel I can still play," Ewing said at a news conference at a Manhattan hotel. "It's time to go on to the next chapter of my life. I'd like to thank [coach] Doug Collins, [general manager] Wes Unseld and [owner Abe] Pollin for the opportunity. I'm looking forward to working as hard as I did when I played."

Said Collins: "What more could you ask than to have a future Hall of Fame player on your staff working with your players every day? It will be a real privilege for our players to work with Patrick. His first-hand experience in this league, the ability to prepare yourself as a professional and knowing what it takes to win will be absolutely priceless lessons for our players to learn from Patrick."

The Wizards' offseason signing of Bryon Russell was of note because Jordan hit the game-winning jumper over him in the 1998 NBA Finals. The hiring of Ewing, assuming Jordan returns to play this season, carries similar significance because Ewing will be coaching a longtime nemesis.

In the 1982 NCAA championship game, Jordan's North Carolina Tar Heels defeated Ewing's Georgetown Hoyas. And five times in the late 1980s and 1990s, when Ewing's Knicks were always a threat in the Eastern Conference, Jordan's Bulls knocked them from the playoffs. New York did make the finals in 1994 the first of two seasons Jordan chose not to play before returning late in the 1994-95 season and in 1999.

"Instead of needling me from afar, he'll be needling me in the same town," Ewing said.

Ewing returns to the District, where he starred at Georgetown and led the Hoyas to three NCAA tournament finals and the 1984 NCAA title. His son, Patrick Jr., is enrolled at National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, where the 6-foot-8 forward, regarded as a Division I prospect, will play his senior season.

Named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, Ewing was drafted No.1 overall by New York in 1985 and was named rookie of the year for the 1985-86 season. He was an 11-time All-Star and ranks as the Knicks' all-time leader in several major categories, including points, rebounds and blocks. With Ewing, the Knicks made the playoffs 13 straight seasons from 1987-88 to 1999-2000.

"Obviously Patrick's playing career speaks for itself, and I know that the knowledge he has gained during his career will be a valuable asset to our coaching staff," U•nseld said. "You can't measure the value of experience, and Patrick will share that experience with our players."

The Knicks reached the NBA Finals against the Houston Rockets in 1994, taking a 3-2 series lead before Houston rallied to win in seven games. The Knicks also reached the finals in 1999, but Ewing was injured and did not play as the Spurs took the title in five games.

Ewing was traded to Seattle for the 2000-01 season and to Orlando last season, when for the first time in his career he didn't start every game he played. His minutes were limited, and his statistics dropped to career lows.

For his career, Ewing averaged 21.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks a game. He ranks 13th on the NBA's all-time list with 24,815 points.

Ewing will be formally introduced today at a news conference.

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