Big East coaches weigh in on realignment
With the 2011-2012 college basketball season on the horizon, the Big East coaches and select players gathered for their annual media day at the New York Athletic Club on Wednesday.
This year’s topic of discussion, however, was not dominated about talk of the upcoming season, but rather conference realignment that has shaken the conference and what lies ahead in the future.
“We all know the leadership of our conference is working hard to solidify and indeed improve the conference,” Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said. “There is a glorious past to consider, and we are always mindful of our league’s rich tradition and history as we plan for the future, so that nothing will happen to that legacy.”
This coming season, nothing has changed for the conference that sent a record 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament last year. To some, the conference may even be better than last season.
The future departure of Pittsburgh and Syracuse has raised a few questions about what was going through the minds of the president and athletic directors at these two cornerstone schools.
“My problem is that they made a decision in 36 to 48 hours,” Louisville head coach Rick Petino said. “More thought should have gone into it, if they are telling the truth, that they only knew about it for 48 hours.”
These quick decisions have made an immediate impact on the uncertainty of the conference’s future.
With anger against the teams that are planning to leave, one might expect those teams to face a more hostile environment on the road.
“I don’t think that it is possible,” head coach of outgoing Pittsburgh Jamie Dixon said. “That’s why kids come to play in the conference: to play in front of passionate crowds every night.”
With as much talk of realignment going across the building, there was still talk of actual basketball that was going to go on this season.
While some coaches take in as many “one and done” players as they can, some prefer to rely on the experience of veterans.
“I don’t want to be caught in the Carrier Dome starting three freshman, “Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. “That’s the year I’m taking a sabbatical. When you have older guys, even if they have not played big game minutes but they have been around the program for two or three years, they have the ability to deliver.”
This experience does not just matter in games but also in practices. At Seton Hall, where transfers guard/forward Brian Oliver and center Gene Teague are sitting out the season, they can bring a lot to practice.
“What they do is elevate the first team,” head coach Kevin Willard said about the transfers. “When Fuquan Edwin goes against Oliver, who played 25 minutes a game in the ACC, you aren’t going against a second team player. If you are Herb Pope playing against Teague, you’re not going to find a tougher guy to go against, so it benefits those two and the rest of the team.”
Although the future is uncertain and no one can predict the upcoming season, the Big East still remains one of the most competitive conferences in the country.
Stephen Valenti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org