NEW YORK — Coaches had reactions ranging from humorous to sentimental as the Big East convened for Big East basketball media day at the New York Athletic Club.
Both Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced they were leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference in September. Last week, TCU bolted for the Big 12 without ever having played a single game in the Big East.
Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey wasn’t ready to give up on SU and Pitt just yet.
“TCU changed their mind,” Brey said. “Syracuse and Pittsburgh, they can come back. Why don’t they come back? Rethink it and come back.”
His response drew laughs from the media contingent around him. But in a moment of complete seriousness, Brey expressed concern over the future of the Big East.
“When you lose Syracuse and Pitt, that’s a big hit,” Brey said. “I think the guys that are still remaining, many of us has paid our dues in this league. We don’t want to lose this thing.”
Other coaches in the room reflected on the history of Pittsburgh and Syracuse in the Big East.
Syracuse was one of the founding members of the Big East, while Pittsburgh joined three years later. The two schools account for nearly 60 years of conference membership.
“It’s disappointing,” Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said. “I played at Pitt. I went to Pitt. To think of Pitt of anywhere else beside the Big East is crazy.”
Nothing sounded more crazy than Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim roaming the sidelines as an ACC coach.
“Jim is the Big East,” Brey said. “I can’t picture the league without him. I feel for him because he’s helped make the league.”
Louisville coach Rick Pitino felt the same way.
“It’s tough for me to fathom the Big East without Syracuse University,” Pitino said. And for the fans, I feel bad for them, because about 50 percent of their alumni are in the greater New York area.”
Reports said that the deal for Syracuse and Pitt to depart the Big East happened in a 48 hour time frame. That also struck a chord with Pitino.
“I wish they would’ve taken two weeks and thought about it,” Pitino said. “If you’re in a conference for 30 years and you’re making a decision in 48 hours, it doesn’t make sense to me. That being said, that’s me. Two, they have a right to do whatever they want to do.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
Pitt and Syracuse will be gone soon.
But in the interim, they are still here, and there are still games to be played.
“It’s a bit of a distraction for me in August and September when you’re trying to figure it out,” Brey said. “But when practice started on Friday, we were back in our element. We’re just focusing on winning games.”