The Big End
Legendary Villanova coach Rollie Massimino reflects on the soon-to-be unrecognizable Big East’s past and present.
as told to David Cassilo / @dcassilo
The Big East was brought upon by [founder] Dave Gavitt and [commissioner] Mike Tranghese. To me, Dave Gavitt was the finest athletic administrator in the country at that particular juncture.
We had great camaraderie amongst the coaches, and we had the opportunity to compete against each other and still have many, many fond memories about the various games that took place. I still see and talk with John Thompson. Bill Raftery is a dear friend. Gary Williams is a dear friend. Lou Carnesecca, I still talk to. We’re all very much still in tune with each other. We used to yell and scream at each other but still had the respect for each other, which I think was great. To still have a relationship amongst each other is a wonderful thing.
It was competitive. We would play two No. 1 teams—one on a Saturday and one on a Monday. That to me was very special.
Having Madison Square Garden as the venue for the Big East Tournament was tremendous. We were in one place, New York City, which is supposedly where it was all at. It was a wonderful thing. After the games we would celebrate, either in our rooms or go down to Little Italy and have a big dish of pasta.
To have three teams in the 1985 Final Four, it was a tremendous amount of pride, not only with the three of us, but with the entire group of coaches. That’s what made it so special. There could have been four because Boston College lost in the Elite Eight to Memphis.
In the last 10 seconds of the title game [pictured above], I told the kids as long as we didn’t foul, we were going to win because it would take two or three seconds to bring the ball up and another two or three seconds to shoot the ball. Back then the clock didn’t stop. Unfortunately after the basket, one of the Georgetown players punched the ball up in the stands. But we persevered, got the ball in bounds and just held it.
I’m coaching at Northwood (FL) now, but I’m still very close to Jay Wright at Villanova, and we went there and played. When Gary Williams was at Maryland, he gave us the opportunity to play there. We’ve been to other venues in the Big East, and it’s been great.
I’m obviously disappointed about the Big East now, but it’s called changing times. Things happen, and I don’t know why. I’m not directly involved, but obviously the presidents understand what is best for their institutions.
I think it’s great that they got the seven schools involved in this new conference. I think there’s nothing better. The competition still rises. It’s wonderful that they got that opportunity.
Quite frankly, we were in direct competition with the ACC, but the Big East was just a great league. I love the league, and it’s unfortunate that it had to disband, but hopefully the new and old leagues prosper.