(NY Daily Post)
Where would Big East Men’s Basketball be without John Thompson, Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas?
This weekend the Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament crowned its conference champion for the last time. The formation of the Big East Conference in 1979 caused a seismic shift of power in college basketball from the South and West Coast to the Northeastern part of the United States. The Big East has produced 16 Final Four participants (Louisville, Marquette, DePaul, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh made all their trips before joining the Big East) and six National Champions. Since it’s inception in 1979, the Big East has had three No. 1 overall picks in the NBA Draft; Patrick Ewing (1985, the first ever NBA Lottery pick), Derrick Coleman (1990) and Allen Iverson (1996).
Here is my all-time Big East team, complete with a starting five, reserves and head coach. Enjoy!
*Note* The players selected are prior to expansion of the conference.
PG – Sherman Douglas, Syracuse University (1985-1989)
The above clip summed up Sherman Douglas’ career with the Orangemen (later the Orange). Surrounded by some of the greatest players in Syracuse history, “The General” found his niche and perfected it. No one in college basketball threw a better alley-oop pass than Douglas. In 1989, Douglas became the NCAA’s all-time assists leader with 960 dimes, Douglas is now ranked sixth all-time. Derrick Coleman, Rony Seikaly, Billy Owens, Stevie Thompson and others were all beneficiaries of Douglas unselfishness. Not noted as a scorer, Douglas averaged 15 points a game and a healthy 7 assists.
SG – Ray Allen, University of Connecticut (1993-1996)
Has there been a more polished player coming out of the college ranks? Ray Allen’s silent and unassuming demeanor was in direct contrast to his game. Allen’s baby face shielded an assassin’s heart. UConn greats Cliff Robinson and Donyell Marshall brought the Huskies program into focus. Allen helped bring the Huskies into the national spotlight. Allen averaged 19 points and six rebounds a game while at UConn. His duel with Allen Iverson in the 1995 Big East semifinals is remembered as one of the greatest games in Big East history.
(Big East Player of the Year in 1995)
C – Patrick Ewing, Georgetown University (1981-1985)
Patrick Ewing’s career began the extensive and impressive lineage of Georgetown big men. Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Othella Harrington, Michael Sweetney, Roy Hibbert and Greg Monroe. But it was John Thompson’s greatest recruit was facilitator of a great Georgetown defense — which was one of the most feared in NCAA history. The Jamaica native averaged 15 points, 9 boards and 3 blocks per game for the Hoyas. Ewing was a starter for Thompson from day one and his star r0se with each game. In 1984, Ewing was the anchor of the Hoyas National Championship team. The Hoyas triumphed over Akeem Olajuwon and the Houston Cougars. His dominance as a defender and terror in the paint is unparalleled. Ewing chose Georgetown over Boston College and Boston University (Ewing moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts as a 12-year old). Upon hearing Ewing’s choice to play for John Thompson, fans in attendance for Ewing’s announcement left the room. Ewing endured racist signs and chants at many of Georgetown’s road games. His mental toughness was a direct result of Thompson’s us-against-the-world approach.
(Big East Player of the Year in 1983, 1984)
SF – Chris Mullin, St. John’s University (1981-1985)
Like Ewing, Chris Mullin is largely responsible for bringing the Big East into the national consciousness. The Brooklyn native traveled to the Bronx and Harlem, pitting his skills against the best players in New York City. Mullin was a boyhood legend in CYO leagues — where he dominated at an early age. Mullin’s arrival to St. John’s in Queens only enhanced his legacy. Under the colorful Lou Carnesecca, Mullin became a three-time All-American — while winning Big East Player of the Year three times. In 1985, Mullin and the Redmen (Later the Red Storm) went to the Final Four — which included Big East rivals Georgetown and Villanova. Mullin averaged 19 points and 4 rebounds in four years at St. John’s.
(Big East Player of the Year 1983, 1984 and 1985)
PF – Derrick Coleman, Syracuse University (1986-1990)
Derrick Coleman had the tools and basketball I.Q. to be the greatest power forward who ever lived. At Syracuse, Coleman was simply the greatest power forward college basketball had seen in a very long time. The four-time All-American averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds for Jim Boeheim. In 1990, Coleman was named a consensus All-American after winning Big East Player of the Year in the same season. As a freshman, Coleman was a member of the Syracuse team which lost to Indiana in the 1987 National Championship game. Coleman left Syracuse as the NCAA’s all-time leading rebounder (Post 1973).
(Big East Player of the Year 1989)
Coach – John Thompson, Georgetown University (1972-1999)
John Thompson’s contribution to Georgetown was more than wins. Thompson fought for the lives of his players — many of whom were predominantly Black. Thompson confronted druglord Rayful Edmond about associating with his players without and backlash or repercussion. When a banner which read: “Thompson the nigger flop must go!” hung in the gym where he practiced and coached, Thompson continued to function as a man unfazed by his detractors. Regardless of the obstacles, Thompson has led by an example worthy of honor. A strong opponent of Proposition 48, Thompson was at the forefront of the argument how the rule places African-American athletes at a disadvantage. Thompson threatened to walk his team off the floor when objects and racist chants were hurled at Patrick Ewing. He defended his star player heroically throughout his career. His teams — while talented were deemed “dirty” by critics because of their physical nature. Thompson embraced the role of villain by circling the wagons and adopting an us-against-the-world philosophy. Thompson became the first African-American college basketball coach to win the NCAA championship in 1984. Thompson was Big East Coach of the Year in 1980, 1987 and 1992.
G – Allen Iverson, Georgetown University
G – Mark Jackson, St. John’s University
G – Pearl Washington, Syracuse University
G – Reggie Williams, Georgetown University
F – Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse University
F – Kerry Kittles, Villanova University
F – Rip Hamilton, University of Connecticut
F – Billy Owens, Syracuse University
F – Walter Berry, St. John’s University
F – Charles Smith, University of Pittsburgh
C – Alonzo Mourning, Georgetown University
C – Emeka Okafor, University of Connecticut
C – Dikembe Mutombo – Georgetown University
Honorable Mention: Dana Barros (Boston College), Terry Dehere (Seton Hall), Stephen Thompson (Syracuse), Rony Seikaly (Syracuse), Ed Pinkney (Villanova), Dwayne McClain (Villanova), David Wingate (Georgetown)