The Big East Basketball Tournament & MSG …The end of an era
OF UNEXPLAINED SMILES AND LINGERING SCENTS
You expect more from a last dance. A memory, perhaps a last kiss, that years later becomes an unexplained smile while watching a sunset on a summer evening. Lingering over the scent of perfume on the shoulder of a tuxedo before it’s returned to the rental agent. An experience enhanced in the mind every time it returns to the forefront, not a quick handshake or a pat on the back and a “Thanks for coming, maybe we can do it again some time.” There don’t seem to be any such lingering sentiments about the last dance in the Big East, the final tournament at Madison Square Garden, which has housed the biggest event in the biggest college basketball conference in the nation for more that three decades. It is no longer about sentiment in college sports, it’s about money, and money can’t buy one from the heart, not heartfelt. After playing his final game in the biggest series in Big East history, against UConn, before heading to the ACC, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said only that scheduling UConn again might be a possibility, but it would never again have the rivalry impact of being in the same league. On approaching his final game with Georgetown, a matchup of two of the three programs that gave the Big East it’s earliest national profile, Boeheim was just as heartless. Georgetown may find it’s way onto the Syracuse schedule at sometime in the future, but, other than for those sentimental, Boeheim can’t think of any reasons for making it a priority. The priority, if there is one for putting a former Big East opponent on the schedule, particularly one of the seven Catholic defectors, would lie with St. John’s, with sentiment playing no part. A built in opportunity to offer recruits a dance on the biggest stage in college basketball, Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan, was a valuable recruiting tool that Boeheim can no longer carry with him into the living rooms of the top high school players in the nation. Getting St. John’s back on his schedule is a top priority, with the caveat that the games be played at Madison Square, where Syracuse can maintain a Big Apple presence. The only lingering scent that holds any sentiment for Boeheim is that of fresh ink on a letter of intent and there’s nothing unexplained about the smile that goes with it. There should be something celebratory about the last dance, but the last Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden feels more like business as usual, with smaller crowds and less fanfare. Maybe the final four will add some spark, but for now it’s more like a wake over the death of Dave Gavett’s child, when it should be a celebration of the accomplishments of a once proud prodigy. There is no guarantee that the new Big East will bring it’s spring cottillion back to the grand ballroom, all they take with them is the right to negotiate for it. Also envious of the Garden is the ACC, which may, at some point in the future, make a certain local entry a valuable entity. But, for now, the lights are going dim and it’s time to leave the dance floor. There will be many fond memories of this once sizzle soaked week in New York, Ray Allen burying a monumental trey, Kemba Walker hoisting his team on his back, Ewing and Mullin, Ron Rowan to Mark Jackson and, “I looked at the clock and it was time to go”, but the last dance will not be one of them. No unexplained summer night smiles, no lingering scent of perfume on the rented tux. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.