NEW YORK -- Rhode Island coach Jim Baron remembers sneaking into college basketball games at Madison Square Garden as a kid growing up in Brooklyn.
Baron's Rams and their Atlantic 10 brethren now will star in what they hope will be the latest installment of big-time hoops in New York City. The conference formally announced Wednesday that its men's basketball tournament will move to the Barclays Center, the new Brooklyn home of the NBA's New Jersey Nets.
The five-year deal starts in 2013.
"I just think it's going to be a rebirth of college basketball in New York," said Fordham coach Tom Pecora, who was born in the borough.
The Atlantic 10 has earned three bids to the NCAA tournament and sent a team to the round of 16 for the past four years. But attendance at its conference tourney hasn't always matched the national success of its 14 members, from Xavier to Massachusetts, Saint Joseph's to Temple.
Barclays Center seats about 18,000.
"It gives us the opportunity to come into a brand-new facility that has all the amenities that sports fans expect," commissioner Bernadette McGlade said. "Bringing it into the New York market and into Brooklyn, with the density of population and the density of our Atlantic 10 alumni base, is certainly going to put everything in place to really catapult this championship to the next level.
"The talent is there; the games have been there. Now we have to be able to expose it and brand it better."
McGlade isn't concerned about the tournament going on at the same time as the Big East tourney at the Garden. Typically the Big East final is on a Saturday night and the A-10 championship game on Sunday afternoon. In fact, she believes the simultaneous events will only stoke the interest for all college basketball in the city.
"There is an insatiable hunger out there for good sporting events, and the Atlantic 10's mission is to make our men's basketball championship one of the premier men's basketball championships," McGlade said.
A-10 teams also could play regular-season nonconference games in the arena. Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark wants college basketball to be a major tenant, already adding the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
For the schools, it's high-profile exposure in a metropolitan area rich with top prospects.
"Kids want to play in this kind of venue. It's an NBA facility," Baron said. "We're real excited because we'll be able to tell our recruits that, 'Hey, we're coming into this venue, and it's the media market of the world.' "