Oct. 16, 2013
by Richard Finn
NEW YORK - The BIG EAST launched a new chapter in its storied history on Wednesday, at the men's basketball media day at Chelsea Piers, with the help of a lot of familiar faces.
Over in one corner there was Villanova coach Jay Wright, entering his 13th campaign for the Wildcats, and across the room stood Buzz Williams in his sixth season with the Marquette Golden Eagles and John Thompson III starting his eighth year at Georgetown. Bill Raftery, longtime television voice for BIG EAST games, was in attendance as he prepares for another season of calling games-- now on the new TV home of the league, Fox Sports and Fox Sports 1.
But there was also plenty of new in the room, beginning at the top of the BIG EAST leadership with Commissioner Val Ackerman, who in her first state of the league address pledged to continue the tradition of integrity and excellence on the hardwood that has made the conference one of the preeminent leagues throughout its history.
"This is a return to the roots of the old and a season of new beginnings and that is what makes it so exciting," said Ackerman. "We are going to do everything that Dave Gavitt set out to do when he brought the league into being in 1979, we are going to make this basketball conference a force. We are going back to BIG EAST roots, basketball at the core and basketball at its best."
The future will be built on the core pillars of the BIG EAST beginning with respect, leadership, rivalries and great basketball, promised Ackerman.
"The BIG EAST continues, the same as 1979, great coaches, great players and great history," said Rafferty.
That includes continuing the league's long tradition of calling Madison Square Garden home to the conference tournament for many years into the future.
"For the tradition of the league I think it was crucial, "said Xavier coach Chris Mack. "For more than 20 years that is where fans identify with the BIG EAST. It is the Mecca of basketball."
With the introduction of three new member schools - Butler, Creighton and Xavier-- the BIG EAST will open conference play on December 31, with all 10 teams in action in league games. A fitting start for a conference that treasures that past but is also looking towards the future.
"You look around the room and we got a pretty good basketball league," said Thompson III. "We might have lost a few Hall of Fame coaches but when you look around the room I don't think too many teams want to go up against the guys in this room."
When league play starts with an all-day BIG EAST bonanza on Fox Sports on Dec 31, not much will really have changed for the players, the coaches and the fans.
"I think that the bottom line in any sport is to win," said Williams. "If you lose nobody cares."
Some things never change.