Early Friday morning Charlotte Bobcats associate head coach Patrick Ewing was getting annoyed that his cell phone kept ringing.
“I thought, ‘Who in the hell is this calling me this time of the morning?’ It was (head coach Steve Clifford), telling me he was experiencing chest pains and was in the hospital.”
Clifford was admitted overnight, and following tests, doctors inserted two stents in his heart. That made Ewing the acting coach Friday night against the team he once starred for, the New York Knicks.
“It’s ironic that I played 15 years in New York and my first opportunity to coach is against the Knicks,” Ewing said before the game. “I am nervous. When I played I was never nervous before a game, but as a coach the butterflies are flowing.”
Ewing called one of his former coaches, now-television analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who told Ewing, “Just take a deep breath and relax. You’ll be fine.”
Ewing’s only previous head-coaching experience was in summer league. He got a call from Clifford, a rookie head coach this season, after Clifford’s procedure.
“He sounded good – cracking jokes trying to calm me down. And he’s ready to get out” of the hospital, Ewing said.
Ewing said he hopes Clifford is released Sunday. The Bobcats’ next game is Monday at home against the Atlanta Hawk. How long Clifford is away from the team is yet to be determined.