Time to Turn the Page on Historic Era of Big East Basketball
WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Sunday night, I literally watched my childhood go by watching ESPN.
ESPN’s 30-for-30 series has virtually been perfect. Each film has been well produced, well written, even down to the narration.
The feature on the Big East Conference, “Requeim For The Big East” was, as anticipated, fantastic. The nation learned the truths about the Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry. The level of coaching was incredible. Dave Gavitt, as good a basketball guy as you would find in those days, turned out to be an even better businessman.
Growing up a Georgetown fan from day one in the league, seeing the highlights of Ed Spriggs put back at Manley Field House and the Hoyas closing out the building, just awesome.
As a person who has wanted to be a broadcaster since I was 5 years old, in addition to Pat Summerall, Vin Scully, Frank Gleiber, on CBS’ NFL package, my hoops idols were Dick Enberg, Len Berman and Mike Gorman. The world certainly knew about the first four names because of their network affiliation.
The latter two were my professors every Monday night on the Big East package which aired on Channel 5 here in DC area. It was must see TV. I may have been the only kid in the DC area who knew who Jay Murphy (Boston College) was.
Before Bill Raftery brought his trademark, “Man-To-Ma” to the networks, he was terrific on the BIG East package. It was the first appointment TV I could remember outside of the NFL on Sunday afternoons.
People who watched the show, certainly saw the coaching genius of John Thompson of Georgetown. Perhaps even more important, they saw his incredible business acumen that built Georgetown into a marketing brand. The bad boy image, they embraced. The starter jackets they sold, revenue generating! They had the best big men in Big East history and the rivalries in the 80’s built with Syracuse and St. John’s brought the schools more money than they could have ever dreamed. His decisions to walk off the court and pull his team off the court when he believed in political causes that effected student –athletes and the idiocy that greeted Patrick Ewing in some fan bases, were strong.
Jim Boeheim’s honesty in his dislike for Georgetown was refreshing. It’s what great rivalries are built on. The Hoyas always seemed to win the big games, even when he acquired the talented Dwayne “Pearl”Washington, the Hoyas found away to win in the Big East Tournament and it even forced a Boeheim Chair-Toss like Bob Knight in a post-game presser.
Did the Hoyas intimidate? Absolutely. Players, refs, media, all found approaching, playing, talking about Georgetown to be intimidating. Locally, those of us who were Georgetown fans were mocked by our friends who rooted for the Maryland Terrapins.
Georgetown getting to a national Championship level was a huge blow to Maryland. The Terps had often been close to conquering that mountain climb under Lefty Driesell. Georgetown’s rise and the subsequent death of Len Bias stopped Maryland’s momentum like a brick wall until Gary Williams returned to save the day in College Park and did a monster rebuilding job.
Georgetown gave the Big East street credibility almost right away. A national runner-up performance in 1982, and a National Title in 1984. Villanova won in 1985 when three Big East teams made the Final Four. People forget how good Chris Mullin and St. John’s were, he just happened to arrive when Georgetown had Ewing, Reggie Williams, and of course the no one can forget the redemption for Fred Brown after his bad pass in 1982. Coach Thompson’s bear hug for Brown when he came off the court in 1984 at the end of Georgetown’s win over Houston, was as a joyful a moment as you could root for.
The power of the coaches was extraordinary. Thompson, Boeheim, Carnesecca, Massimino, Pitino, Williams, Davis, Carlessimo. The talent level of the coaches and players was off the chart.
We will always remember the ugly court Seton Hall played on, Manley, McDonough, The Palestra, Madison Square Garden, Ewing, Washington, Mullin, Pinckney, Floyd. The rise was meteoric, the cash flowed, the legitimacy it gave hoops in the Northeast was unpredictable. The only bad thing is it is now history. It was a fun part of my childhood and a large influence on why I got into this industry. Thanks, Dave Gavitt. Well done.
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