As Syracuse begins its 2021-22 basketball campaign, the Athletic’s Dana O’Neil is looking back to the Orange’s past.
O’Neil’s book, The Big East: Inside the Most Entertaining and Influential Conference in College Basketball History comes out today and we caught up with her to chat about the book and the upcoming season on this week’s The Juice on the Cuse Podcast, presented by SNY.tv.
“It’s such a topic that people are so fond of,” O’Neil said. “It’s not like anyone doesn’t want to talk about it.”
O’Neil spoke with over 60 people for the book, including pillars of the conference such as Jim Boeheim, John Thompson and Lou Carnesecca. Though Boeheim is sometimes reticent in speaking to the media, that certainly wasn’t the case here.
“He was more than happy,” O’Neill said. “Some of the stories are unbelievable because they’re from a different era.”
Some of O’Neil’s favorite stories included a February 1985 matchup between St. John’s and Georgetown, commonly known as the “Sweater Game.”
St. John’s, ranked No. 1 at the time, faced off against the No. 2 Hoyas, and Thompson donned a shirt that resembled Carnesecca’s trademark sweater. Georgetown went on to rout St. John’s at Madison Square Garden, 85-69.
While everyone remembers Thompson’s sweater, O’Neil also spoke to Carnesecca about his rebuttal.
“He threw a gigantic John Thompson towel over his shoulder,” O’Neil said. “That one really cracked me up.”
Another favorite was Syracuse’s historic six overtime win over UConn in the 2009 Big East Tournament Quarterfinals.
Then-Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese was supposed to have a surprise party immediately after the game to celebrate his retirement, but when the two teams played late into the night, the party kept getting pushed further and further back.
“To have that celebration pegged to that particular game was unbelievable,” O’Neil said. “It was so fitting because it was such an epic, epic game.”
As for the current season, O’Neil thinks the ACC is as wide open as it has been in years. Though Syracuse was picked to finish in the middle of the pack, she believes that the Orange has an opportunity to do better.
“If they can become a half decent, even formidable Jim Boeheim defense, and take all of the shooters they have, they can surprise some people in the ACC,” O’Neil said. “There are games to be had in that league.”
Afterward, editor in chief Brad Bierman calls in to give his predictions for the upcoming season, and discusses O’Neil’s book.