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25 Years of Big East Basketball

The starting five that would best represent the Big East

by Raphielle Johnson


The past twenty-five years have given the participants in Big East basketball, from fans to coaches to players, many thrills, too many to list in one article. The league has seen quicksilver guards, dominating post players and versatile swingmen, along with head coaches who became best known by their first names as the Big East grew into a power. The original goal of league founder Dave Gavitt was to form a league among the major basketball schools throughout the Northeast. What he ended up with was a hoops monster that helped change the landscape of college basketball from the game for the college town…to the city game. New York…Philadelphia…Boston…Providence…cities that were banded together with one goal in mind: to make the Big East the best conference ever assembled for basketball. In this article I will do my best to pick a starting five for the league, putting together the greats of the past 25 years of Big East basketball. Keep in mind that this was done to coincide with the league’s 25 years of existence, not ESPN’s 25 years of coverage.


Head Coach: John Thompson (Georgetown) - The creator of “Hoya Paranoia”, Thompson set the standard for coaching excellence in the Big East. The Hall of Fame coach went to three Final Fours during his tenure, winning it all in 1984. Add to this his numerous league titles and you have the head coach for this outstanding squad.


Point Guard: Dwayne “Pearl” Washington (Syracuse) - Pearl Washington was the most exciting guard to watch in the history of the league. Fans of Iverson, Ray Allen, and Michael Adams (Boston College) may have an argument, but Pearl did it well before any of them, giving the likes of Georgetown and St. John’s a worthy Sunday afternoon foe that helped the Big East reach its paramount status in the mid-eighties. Washington was one of the few New York City playground legends who lived up to the hype that surrounded them.

Shooting Guard: Ray Allen (Connecticut) - The difference between Ray and Allen Iverson basically amounts to one shot. That same shot, which was little more than an attempt to avoid a traveling violation in the final seconds, won Connecticut the 1996 Big East Tournament title. National Player of the Year in 1996, Allen helped the Husky program establish itself as the new flagship program of the Big East, a title that still stands today.

Small Forward: Chris Mullin (St. John’s) - The lefty from New York City helped Louie Carnesecca become well known for his outstanding Redmen squads instead of just for his outlandish sweaters. Mullin, National Player of the Year in 1985, helped the Johnnies win their first Big East title and also led them to their first Final Four appearance in over thirty years in 1985. Mullin also enjoyed a lengthy pro career, but he’ll always be remembered as the left-handed assassin for the Redmen.

Power Forward: Derrick Coleman (Syracuse) - For some reason, some experts believe that because of two missed free throws, Coleman is not one of the five best players in Big East history. No one said that experts are always right however. Coleman helped lead the Orange to two league titles and a Final Four in his three years in Syracuse. Look at it this way: with no Coleman during the eighties, there would be no Carmelo cutting down the nets last spring. Derrick meant that much to the growth of Jim Boeheim’s program.

Center: Patrick Ewing (Georgetown) - Coach Thompson needed an enforcer of his “Hoya Paranoia”, and Ewing was the man for the job. The seven-footer led the Hoyas to three Final Fours in his four years at Georgetown, easily becoming the game’s most intimidating presence. His development as a force was important to the league as well, for it helped get the league out in public circles during the early years.


Assistant Coaches: Louie Carnesecca (St. John’s), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Jim

Calhoun (Connecticut) - These three coaches are, along with Thompson, the backbone of the league’s history. All three have won league titles and made Final Four appearances, with Calhoun (1999) and Boeheim (2003) walking away with national titles. There are no other coaches in league history, with the possible exception of Rollie Massimino (Villanova), that have had a greater impact on the Big East.



Allen Iverson (Georgetown)

Sherman Douglas (Syracuse)

Ed Pinckney (Villanova)

Alonzo Mourning (Georgetown)

Chris Smith (Connecticut)

Kerry Kittles (Villanova)

Walter Berry (St. John’s)


Worthy of Consideration:


Michael Adams (Boston College)

Terry Dehere (Seton Hall)

John Linehan (Providence)

Lawrence Moten (Syracuse)

Jerome Lane (Pittsburgh)

Troy Bell (Boston College)


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