By: Patrick Waring
You already know what time it is. Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas are returning to the Carrier Dome today to face the Syracuse Orange. We all know that these two programs are no longer in the same conference, but you can’t change history. I have had the opportunity to talk with Hoya Legend Gene Smith here and here, as well as on many podcasts, about the rivalry and his involvement. Once again, Gene shares his thoughts on what’s going on currently with the next chapter and more.
The Hoyas So Far This Season
Patrick Waring: It’s year two of the Patrick Ewing coaching era. How would you summarize the first season and what are your thoughts on the first eight games of this year?
Gene Smith: I was so happy to see Ewing on the sideline. I gave him a pass on everything in his first season. His presence alone improved the Hoyas program. This season thus far has been about building blocks and establishing a culture of winning. And he’s still actively recruiting/hustling in season. He is putting in the work to build a competitive program, and the team competes and plays harder than last year. The efforts on defense are lackluster so far. The season is as expected, a work in progress. Getting a win over Syracuse is important for Ewing’s Hoyas.
PW: Much was made of last season’s schedule. Was the criticism fair or do you think people need to chill and have faith in Ewing’s plan?
GS: Yes, the schedule is Ewing’s plan to embrace. It’s not like it’s hard to understand. I expect Ewing’s Hoyas will have a very competitive schedule in the near future. They have to or the top talent will go elsewhere.
PW: James Akinjo and Mac McClung were both named starters for game one and that hasn’t changed since. What are your thoughts on the young backcourt?
GS: I’m excited to watch them play. I had the opportunity to watch Michael Jackson and David Wingate start as freshmen, so that is my point of reference. I really like Akinjo’s heart. He is not afraid of the big moment just like MJ wasn’t. Mac plays hard all of the time. The more game experience they get, they will only get better. They are both smaller guards, so they have their work cut out for them on the defensive end. Both compete hard every game.
PW: McClung’s internet buzz and SportsCenter highlights have given the Hoyas more views. What effect (if any) do you see that having on future recruiting?
GS: It certainly does not hurt. Nothing helps recruiting more than winning at a consistent and high level. Mac is a special player. His mid-range game is slept on.
PW: The last time we talked, you mentioned that the St. John’s game was a bigger deal for you because of the Big East Conference and Chris Mullin. Would that still be true this year or does that change with Ewing leading the Hoyas on the road against Cuse for the first time?
GS: St. John’s is still in the BE, they have a POY candidate in Shamorie Ponds, Mullin is there and we have the memory of “The Sweater Game”. Playing them at MSG is always special. Manley is officially closed and Syracuse left the conference. The rivalry with Cuse is real for the fans, but St. John’s means more to me.
On The Game Against Syracuse
PW: Of course, this will be a hostile environment. With the Hoyas being young at the guard position, would you expect Ewing to use more of Jagan Mosely and Jahvon Blair?
GS: The Carrier Dome is a beast and our backcourt wants that smoke. They will sink or swim. I am more concerned with Jamorko Pickett playing well.
PW: Speaking of Pickett, it’s zone buster time. Pickett in the middle? Maybe even Jessie Govan? How would you draw things up?
GS: Ah man, I’m not an X’s & O’s guy. I know it’s going to take a total team effort for a win. I do love deploying Blair and Pickett on the court at the same time.
PW: Cuse fans aren’t supposed to like the Hoyas (and vise versa), but how do you think they will welcome Ewing. I mean, he’s also a Knicks legend. And for the older and more knowledgeable fans, how will they welcome former Orange player and assistant (and Knicks player) Louis Orr?
GS: I expect Syracuse fans to be Syracuse fans. I do feel like they will be respectful pre-game. All bets are off after that. You touched on a sore spot for me. I don’t like, but I respect, Ewing’s decision to have Orr on his staff. I’m just old school like that.
PW: What do the Hoyas have to do to “close” the Dome (since there are currently no scheduled games in the future)?
GS: They have to believe that they can win. Play good defense to create easy buckets on the other end and keep the crowd out of the game. The Hoyas need a monster/breakout game from somebody so everyone else can follow the lead. They have to weather the storm if they get behind.
What’s Going On With Gene
PW: You are a busy man and are always on the move. What have you been up to lately?
GS: Consulting for brands in the footwear and apparel space. Also building a home in Havana.
PW: What do you currently have in your music rotation? Anything new or regular classics?
GS: I am currently listening to Meek Mill’s Championships everyday. Before that, it was Mac Miller’s Swimming. I like to take an album to the lab. My son clowns on me about that.
PW: Where do you plan on watching the game today?
GS: Probably at the crib.
PW: I can’t thank you enough for chatting it up and sharing your thoughts again! You have been a great friend and really supportive. Happy Holidays and I’ll be staying in touch.
GS: Always my pleasure. You and Joe are real with the Hoyas love. I think you should have Mark Tillmon and myself on when available. #H4L
PW: We can make that happen!
Georgetown. Syracuse. The Rivalry.
You can follow me @WaringPatrick.