Lewis named interim head coach of Georgetown women's basketball

October 24, 2013 - 5:42pm

Two weeks after coach Keith Brown stepped down in the wake of an internal investigation of allegations of unprofessional conduct and abusive language toward players, Jim Lewis has been named as the interim head coach of the Georgetown women's basketball program. Lewis, who brings 40 years of coaching experience, most recently as an assistant coach and scout for the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks, becomes just the eighth coach in the history of the program.

Brown had arrived at Georgetown as an assistant coach, primarily responsible for recruiting, in 2007, and was elevated to head coach in May 2012 to replace Terri Williams-Flournoy when she left to take the reins at Auburn. Multiple players left the program following Brown's promotion, and the Hoyas struggled on the floor, finishing last year, Brown's only season at the helm, in the red at 15-16 and missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years.

But Brown's troubles went beyond the team's mediocre performance on the basketball court. Early this month, Full Court reported that Brown had been placed on administrative leave while Georgetown investigated complaints lodged by players concerning his abusive and unprofessional language and conduct toward them.

A week later, on Oct. 10 and just 17 months after having ascended to the top spot, Brown resigned, effective immediately. “We expect the highest standards of behavior and professionalism from all members of our university,” Stacy Kerr, Georgetown’s assistant vice president of communications, said in a statement issued by the university, which has not publicly released the full results of its  investigation. Brown made no formal statement at the time.

Since Georgetown's internal investigation began, the Hoyas, whose 2013-14 season tips off in two weeks with Nov. 8 home game against the Richmond Spiders, have been practicing under the supervision of assistant coaches Krystal Reeves-Evans and Kenya Kirkland. Assistant coach Tim Valentine, who had also been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, has been cleared of wrongdoing and reinstated, rejoining the team in its preparations for the upcoming season. “No evidence was found that he interfered with the investigation,” Kerr said of Valentine in her Oct. 10 statement. “No allegations of abusive or inappropriate language were made against Tim Valentine.”

“I’m very happy to have Jim Lewis leading our women’s basketball program this season,” Reed said in today's announcement, which made no mention of the school's recent coaching turmoil.  “He has a tremendous background in coaching and leadership in a career that has made him very well respected, not only in the Washington, D.C., area, but nationally as well. “

Lewis, a Virginia native with coaching experience at the high school, college, professional and U.S.. national team levels, who helped break the color barrier in 1964-65, his freshman year at West Virginia University, where he was the first African-American scholarship basketball player, went on to become four-year letter winner for the Mountaineers, competing in two NCAA Tournaments and one NIT, while earning his bachelor of science degree in journalism. After graduating in 1968, he began his graduate work at University of Detroit and went on to earn his master's degree in physical education at Tennessee State University.

He began his career as a men’s basketball coach, serving as an assistant at Tennessee State from 1969-70.  He was also on staff at Gannon College (1970-71), Duke (1971-76) and Tulane (1976-81).  After a brief stint coaching at South Lakes High School, where he coached All-Met Player of the Year and Georgetown alum Michael Jackson, Lewis switched over to the emerging women’s game, becoming the head women's basketball coach at George Mason University in 1984.

Lewis led the Patriots for 14 seasons and was the school's winningest coach in both men’s and women's basketball program history when he left, having compiled an overall record of 201-177 at George Mason. He coached the Green and Gold to eight winning seasons, including an appearance in the 1997 Preseason WNIT and led Mason through its inaugural season in the Colonial Athletic Association in 1985.

During his time with the Patriots, Lewis also helped USA Basketball to four medals as an assistant on coaching staffs at the 1994 Jones Cup (gold), 1995 World University Games (silver), 1997 Junior World Championships (gold) and 1997 USA International Invitational (gold).

Lewis left the Patriots to become the first head coach of the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, a role in which he served for one season. Since then, he has shuttled between the college and professional coaching ranks, with a brief stint at the high school level as well. In 2000, he was named head women's coach at Fordham University, where he remained for six seasons, guiding two players to Atlantic 10 Most Improved Player Awards in 2003 and 2004 and four players to All-Conference recognition. Including his time at Fordham and George Mason, Lewis has recorded a 257-295 record in 20 years as a collegiate head coach.

His WNBA career resumed in 2006 when he served as an assistant coach for the Minnesota Lynx for one year, before moving on to the Indiana Fever for three seasons as the director of scouting. Lewis helped the Fever win its first ever Eastern Conference Championship and reach the 2009 WNBA Finals before falling to the eventual champion Phoenix Mercury.    
After a brief stint as the head coach at T.C. Williams High School in his hometown of Alexandria, Va., where he went 22-1 and coached current-Washington Mystic Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Lewis joined the staff at Georgia Tech University in 2010-11. He followed that by returning to George Mason, the place he began his career coaching women’s basketball, for one year, this time as an assistant coach, before returning to the pros as a member of the Sparks' coaching staff. 
Lewis, who takes the helm immediately, will be formally introduced to Hoya fans at the Basketball Tip-Off Party this Friday evening at McDonough Arena.

“Having grown up here in the Washington, D.C., area and Northern Virginia, I know the essence of Georgetown and what it represents so it will be a thrill to come to work every day and to help these young women reach their maximum potential in the classroom as well as on the court,” said Lewis.

Source: Portions of this story were drawn from press releases issued by Georgetown University Athletics Communications.