Big East, big hopes
The common feeling among most players and coaches at the 2010 Big East Media Day echoed the sentiment that many college basketball fans already agree on: the Big East is the most competitive basketball conference in the nation.
The event, which was held on Oct. 20 at Madison Square Garden, began with some opening remarks from John Marinatto, the Big East Commissioner. He welcomed the four new head coaches to the league: Oliver Purnell of DePaul, Mike Rice of Rutgers, Steve Lavin of St. John’s, and Kevin Willard, the new head coach of the Pirates.
Marinatto emphasized the wide range of media coverage this year as more than 50 percent of all 144 conference games will be broadcasted nationally.
He introduced senior guard Austin Freeman of Georgetown, who is projected to be the Big East Player of the Year. Freeman was selected as a part of a new tradition to select one senior player to speak at Media Day and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to be a student athlete. He also offered well wishes to all teams “except, of course, when [they] play the Hoyas.”
During the open Q&A session that followed, Willard, alongside Jeremy Hazell and Jeff Robinson, joked that the biggest challenge he faces as the Hall’s new coach is getting over the George Washington Bridge everyday for practice.
Willard said there are a couple primary responsibilities that come along with his role to coach the Pirates who are predicted to finish 11th in the Big East Coaches Poll.
“My job as coach is to recruit and represent the university at the highest light.” he said. “When you’re at a small Catholic university, you need to bring in kids who can represent the school on the court, but most importantly, off the court.”
Lavin finds himself in a similar situation at St. John’s, who also finished in the lower sector of the conference last year.
“He knows what it takes to win, so you just have to listen,” said Red Storm senior guard/forward D.J. Kennedy on his new coach. “He’s pushing us harder than we’ve ever worked before.”
St. John’s is predicted to finish sixth in the league standings this year.
Stan Heath, head coach of South Florida, said there are two teams in particular to look out for. “The teams coming back on paper are Pitt and Nova,” he said. “They’re really setting the tone right now, but as we all know, there are always surprise teams.”
Pittsburgh welcomes back its starting backcourt of junior Ashton Gibbs and senior Brad Wanamaker in addition to three other seniors. “We’re the same team as last year, we just got better during the off-season,” said Panther senior center Gary McGhee.
On the other hand, Providence head coach Keno Davis said he’s trying to avoid another “rebuilding year.”
“Of course some teams are going to have higher expectations if they have the right personnel,” he said. “In my mind, if you can be in the top half of the Big East, you should be in the NCAA tournament, and if you’re in the Big East and you make the NCAA tournament, then you can win the whole thing.”
Gabrielle Kiger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Editor’s Note: Check out next week’s edition in which we will have a full recap on Men’s and Women’s Big East Media Day. The Setonian’s special Basketball Preview will be released on Nov. 4.