NEW YORK — The symbolic hug came just after the last post-game press conference.
As the Syracuse entourage of players, coaches, family members, and other athletic department personnel made their way from the media interview room back to the locker room late Saturday night to finish packing for the awaiting charter flight back home following the deflating Big East championship game loss to Louisville, AD Daryl Gross encountered Big East commissioner Mike Aresco in the hallway and the two embraced warmly acknowledging the end of the school’s groundbreaking stake in the conference that helped grow the program, under Jim Boeheim’s direction, into a national success story.
Just like that, we thought watching the scene, 34 years in the Big East, 31 years of tournament games at Madison Square Garden was officially over, and we’ve been part, in some way shape or form, of everyone one of them, but it’s ended.
Although Syracuse plays St. John’s in a regular season game at MSG next season, and there’s likely to be appearances in other pre-season tournaments that use the building down the road, and who knows, maybe the ACC makes the smart business decision and looks to get its tournament on Manhattan’s big stage sometime before 2020, it’s never going to come close to duplicating the words “Big East” and “Madison Square Garden.”
The memories are too numerous:
- Leo Rautins tip-in in a half-empty Dome to beat Villanova in 3OTs in 1981.
- Pearl Washington taking down Georgetown in 1984 until Michael Graham’s punch at Andre Hawkins and an angry Boeheim throws a chair.
- The zenith of 1985, Ewing, Mullen, Looie, Big John, and The Sweater.
- Walter Berry blocks the Pearl in ‘86…Sherman Douglas dazzles in ‘88.
- David Johnson’s shot just over Alonzo Mourning to win in 1992.
- A March blizzard in ’93 and Seton Hall over SU by 33 in the title game.
- Connecticut having the Orangemen’s number in ’90, ’96 and ’03.
- Overrated? Gerry McNamara’s run in 2006.
- One game over two days, the epic 6 OT game in 2009 and the Orange players looking for food at 3:00 am in NYC.
- Arinze Onuaku crashing to the floor in 2010 and taking Final Four hopes with him.
- Officially ending the Georgetown rivalry with an upset win Friday night (2013).
Needless to say with all those special memories and tradition, and with all due respect to the longtime tradition of the ACC, just the sound of the “2014 ACC Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum” seems so far, far away.