Big East Coaches Feeling Helpless These Days
NEW YORK -- Aside from losing, there is maybe one thing college coaches hate more than anything, and that's ceding control. Given their druthers, they would dictate every morsel that crosses a player's lips and what kind of socks he wears with his sneakers.
So these are some unique times for the game's biggest power brokers. Their worlds are being upended. Where they play, whom they play and what their futures will look like are being decided for them.
"I say this without even a small dose of humility," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "I have absolutely no voice in this process."
He is not alone.As the Big East coaches gathered Wednesday for their annual media confab, against a conference backdrop that soon could become a collector's item, it was startling to look around a room dotted with current and future Hall of Famers and realize just how little they all had to do with the process.
Feels Like A Farewell To Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Finally Over Hump, Cincy Wants To Stay There
NEW YORK -- A year ago, Mick Cronin walked into Madison Square Garden, sneaked a peak at the preseason poll and stole a look at Yancy Gates. Cincinnati was picked to finish 12th in the 16-team league."I knew we were better than that,'' Cronin said. "I practically kicked Yancy under the table.'' Cronin, of course, was right. The Bearcats finished 11-7, tied with West Virginia for sixth, and ahead of Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette and eventual national champ UConn. Fast-forward a year. Cronin walked into the New York Athletic Club on Wednesday morning and, with an NCAA tournament win in his belt, glanced at the rankings. There in the No. 5 spot sat Cincinnati. It is what Cronin has worked for since taking over five seasons ago. A UC graduate, a native of the city and a self-described fan of the Bearcats, he took the job because he wanted to bring the program back to national prominence. Now that he has, well, it's time to gulp. "In this league, you never win because of who you are,'' Cronin said. "That might happen in some leagues, but in this league, no one is giving you the empty chair. That's definitely my biggest concern for this team. How do we deal with having a target?'' It is the beautiful conundrum of coaching -- you spend years toiling and clawing to get to the summit, and then the rest of your career fretting and worrying about how to stay there. Just last season, Cronin put himself on the hot seat, declaring that if he didn't take the Bearcats to the NCAA tournament in his fifth year, he didn't deserve to keep his job.
More Media Day Musings
Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon
Georgetown's John Thompson III
Big East Quotable
Cincinnati: "What I've realized is it's just as hard to maintain a successful program as it is to build one. It never ends, at least not in the Big East."
-- Coach Mick Cronin
Connecticut: "I don't love this team like I loved last year's team. Yet. But they're pretty likeable."
-- Coach Jim Calhoun
DePaul: "We need to play pressure defense and run. It's what we have to do. Our pressure defense has got to be the difference-maker for us."'
-- Coach Oliver Purnell
Georgetown: "The world doesn't know what we're going to have. Losing Austin Freeman and Chris Wright, those two guys have had the ball in their hands for most of their four years, so I understand that."
-- Coach John Thompson III
Louisville: "We're a little unsettled right now because of the situation with [freshman] Wayne [Blackshear, who is awaiting clearance from the NCAA]. With him, we are an extremely good team. Without him, we are very good."
-- Coach Rick Pitino
Marquette: "I fear we may have bitten off more than we can chew with our nonconference schedule, but I also hope that will prepare us better for the Big East and then again for March."
-- Coach Buzz Williams
Notre Dame: "I saw that we were [picked] ninth, and I like that 9-hole. We've come out of that before."
-- Coach Mike Brey
Pittsburgh: "I like this team. We've got a lot of guys who played a few minutes last year. We lost three good players, so usually you're not picked that high, but we are based on past history because they think we're going to have somebody. And I think we will."
-- Coach Jamie Dixon
Providence: "I want to do it my way. That's not to be arrogant. I can steal pieces here and there, borrow an idea, but I want Providence to be Providence and to find our own way. That's the only way I know."
-- Coach Ed Cooley
Rutgers: "We want a winning record in the Big East. That's our goal, to do something our predecessors haven't done. I don't know if that's going to be one over .500 or six or seven games over, but that's the goal."
-- Coach Mike Rice
Seton Hall: "It takes five solid years to really build something. There is no quick fix, and if you try to use one, you'll be out of a job."
-- Coach Kevin Willard
South Florida: "The big challenge for us is to be consistent, to not be that up-and-down team. We need to learn how to handle the highs and the lows."
-- Coach Stan Heath
St. John's: "I never had a team this young in a league this good, so it will be difficult. But I don't want to hear about how we're young. That's an excuse."
-- Assistant Gene Keady, filling in for Steve Lavin
Syracuse: "Fab [Melo] lost 30 pounds. That's the big difference for him. Last year, his biggest problem was getting up and down the court. Once he got there, he could do some things. He just couldn't get there."
-- Coach Jim Boeheim
Villanova: "I think he's ready, like he's waited his turn and it's his time. He knows it's on him now."
-- Coach Jay Wright on Maalik Wayns
West Virginia: "Usually you have two or three older guys, so they can help you out as you try to fix things. Well, we've got trouble all over the place and you can't fix it all."'
-- Coach Bob Huggins
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin
Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine
Big East Preview Content
For a Blue Ribbon breakdown of all 16 Big East teams, click here.
More Big East coverage:
• O'Neil's "Five Things I Can't Wait To See" in the Big East.
• Chad Ford's breakdown of the Big East's top NBA prospects.
• Joe Lunardi's five key questions for the conference.
• Kieran Darcy takes a look at how St. John's is coping as Steve Lavin recovers from cancer surgery.
• With the late addition of Andre Drummond, Andy Katz writes that Connecticut has all the makings for a repeat run.
• Matt Fortuna on life at Notre Dame after Ben Hansbrough, along with a feature on longtime coach Mike Brey.
• Dave Telep gives us a look at the incoming freshmen in the Big East.
• Katz takes a team-by-team look at the league's nonconference schedules.
• Katz with a look at the future of the Big East.
• New Faces, New Places: Katz on the inspiring life story of new Providence coach Ed Cooley.
• Summer Buzz series: Eamonn Brennan took an in-depth look at Pittsburgh, Syracuse, St. John's and Louisville.
• For more Big East coverage in the Nation blog, click here.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey
Villanova coach Jay Wright
Marquette coach Buzz Williams
Brennan's Wind Sprint