With all due respect to the legions of legendary players the Big East has produced in its storied history, the Big East has always been a coach’s league. This makes perfect sense given that the conference was conceived by, and molded through the eyes of a coach. It was the vision of that coach which propelled the Big East and college basketball to new heights beginning in the early 1980s. The Mount Rushmore of the Big East resides in its foundation and backbone. In many ways these are the four fathers of the conference. They all made long-term and lasting contributions to the league, and their statures grew in-kind with that of the conference as a result. These four men are your pillars.
Dave Gavitt: It is impossible to conceive any reference to the success or history of the Big East without Dave Gavitt at the forefront. A true visionary who gave life to the Big East Conference when he founded it in 1979, Gavitt relinquished a successful coaching career at Providence where he led the Friars to the 1973 NCAA Final Four to devote his attention to building the league as its first commissioner. It is hard to imagine where smaller Catholic schools like Georgetown, St. John’s, Providence , Boston College and Villanova would be today without Gavitt’s influence. He believed that there was an audience for college basketball, a belief that probably saved the relevance of college basketball in the northeast and one that transcended his league, leading to the national television attention and marketing of the sport as we currently know it.
Jim Calhoun: The long time Connecticut head coach epitomizes the tenets of the Big East. A New England-born no-nonsense guy and tireless worker who always appears ready for a challenge, Calhoun was hired by Connecticut in 1986. He has led the Huskies to three National Championships, including last season’s historic double where Connecticut came out of nowhere from a ninth-place regular season conference finish to win both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments. The Huskies have made 22 NCAA tournament appearances and four Final Fours under Calhoun’s watch. Further, in this age where football and football money are deemed king, it is important to note that Connecticut has major Division I college football today as a result of the success Calhoun and Connecticut had on the basketball court and not vice versa.