The Big East: Inside the Most Entertaining and Influential Conference in College Basketball History

Dana O’Neil. Ballantine, $28 (272p) ISBN 978-0-593-23793-9
O’Neil (Long Shots), a senior writer at The Athletic, gives the Big East its due in this engrossing history. Utilizing over 60 interviews—including with legendary coaches John Thompson Jr. of Georgetown and St. John’s Lou Carnesecca—O’Neil explains the impact on both college and pro hoops of the initiative spearheaded in 1979 by former Providence College basketball coach Dave Gavitt. Gavitt envisioned an East Coast–centric conference, intended to restore the region’s prominence after it was tarnished by a 1951 point-shaving scandal. That dream was realized as “the Big East grew into a national power, partnering with an equally spunky sports network, ESPN, to become the most formidable and influential conference in college athletic history.” In addition to the seven NCAA championships it secured between 1979 and 2013, and the multiple players it iconized (“who need but one name by way of introduction—Mullin, Pearl, Alonzo, Kemba, Allen”), the Big East helped turn college basketball into a national sensation. Even the way the sport was played was altered—with “the snarl and style of the Big East” upending the civility traditionally displayed on the court. With this colorful account (one coach called the conference “Camelot with bad language”), O’Neil skillfully shows the importance of personalities off the court and on. This is a must-have for March Madness fans. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 08/12/2021
Release date: 11/09/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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