Big East Basketball: Jim Boeheim vs. Rick Pitino and other media day observations

Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Big East Conference men's basketball media provide writers with a handful of storylines on Wednesday. SB Nation New York's Jared Smith recaps the action.

NEW YORK -- If a reporter was looking for headlines Wednesday at the Big East Conference men's basketball media day, they weren't hard to find.

With 15 different ego-driven head coaches, high-profiled media members looking to ask their stick-poking questions, and not to mention and a few awkward story lines, like the Syracuse Orange, Pittsburgh Panthers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish possibly all leaving after this season, it was easy to predict something interesting was going to happen.

The biggest storyline that came out of media day revolved around two of the most prolific head coaches left in the Big East, as Louisville Cardinals' Rick Pitino and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim verbally sparred on opposite ends of the New York Athletic Club's ninth floor.

"Rick's full of s--- if that's what he really said," Boeheim said when asked to respond to Pitino's comment which insinuated the future loss of Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame will easily be filled by the league's newcomers -- the Temple Owls and Memphis Tigers.

"I think he's full of s---, and so we're both full of it," Pitino told reporters with a smile.

"But anybody who looks at where Memphis has been in the last 10-12 years, anybody who looks at the tradition of Temple and knows Franny Dunphy, would know I’m not full of s---.

For over 40 years the two peers have known each other -- Pitino was an assistant under Boeheim and introduced the 67-year-old to his current wife, Juli. However, Boeheim wasn't going to allow Pitino to get away with his comments, especially when he said he knows the Cardinals' coach wanted to head to the Big 12 Conference.

"If he was in the Big 12 like he wanted to be right now, he'd be saying the Big 12 was better," Boeheim said. "That's the bottom line. If Rick and Louisville could have left, they would have left. Everybody knows it. I'm really tired of hearing him say what Syracuse should have done because they would have left in a heartbeat and everybody knows it. If they're going to start talking about Syracuse, then I'm going to talk about them."

Syracuse and Louisville will meet twice this season: Jan. 19 (Louisville at home) and March 2 (Syracuse at home).

St. John's Steve Lavin returns

After the dust settled and teams rotated from the ninth floor (the print/writer's room) to the 10th floor (the video/TV room), the mood shifted in a different direction as St. John's Red Storm head coach Steve Lavin answered questions from media members.

Unlike other coaches, Lavin stood in front, instead of sitting behind, his team's table. The second-year head coach spoke about his roster that features 16 players, including eight newcomers, but also addressed his recent battle with prostate cancer that forced him to miss a majority of last season.

"I am 100 percent better than I was this time last year following surgery," Lavin said. "I am 75 percent in terms of where I'd like to be, which is normal. You talk to doctors and they say that's normal. It takes awhile to get back to 100 percent."

For a good five minutes Lavin talked about the difficulties of last season, which featured the San Francisco native watching St. John's compile a 13-19 overall record mostly from his television set.

"The most difficult aspect of last season was not being able to participate on a daily basis with the kids," Lavin said. "I was only able to be at certain select practices. I attended some of the home games, but the majority of my focus was of a full recovery, and recuperating back to full strength, and then recruiting because we had to sign a class of eight."

Lavin admitted last season's decision to focus on a full recovery was tough, but it was the right thing to do.

"When you recruit a group of players and bring together a staff and then you're not able to set sail on that journey for a season together its very difficult," Lavin said. "But you need to make some tough choices, think in a good intelligent way and develop a plan to help our program in the long haul. I wasn't going to be able to do all three -- coach the team, fully recuperate and sign new players. I chose the latter."

St. John's begins regular-season play Nov. 13 against the Detroit Titans. That game will be played at Carnesecca Arena and will be broadcasted on ESPN starting at 2 p.m. ET.

Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame out of the club

It shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was.

As I sat down waiting for the opening remarks from Big East commissioner Mike Aresco, I looked at the cover of the 2012-13 Big East Media Guide and noticed on the glossy front page there were four players: Louisville Cardinals guard Peyton Siva, Marquette Golden Eagles guard Junior Cadougan, Cincinnati Bearcats guard Sean Kilpatrick and Georgetown Hoyas forward Otto Porter. That's it.

After being a part of a conference for almost two decades (actually, three for SU and Pitt) and having two programs ranked No. 2 and 4 in the preaseason coaches' poll, there was not one representative from the Orange, Panthers or Fighting Irish.

Now, this is not a slight on any of those four players that were placed on the front of the media guide. And this could be the biggest overreaction ever. But how can you leave out players like Brandon Triche, a soon-to-be four-year starter for Syracuse, or a Tray Woodall, possible the best player in the conference? Heck, even Notre Dame senior center Jack Cooley could've been included.

For one more season -- the last season ever -- the Big East could have held onto its history and represented its conference the right way. But whether Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame fans like it our not you are no longer a part of the club, and the current members are making sure your walk out the door is the most uncomfortable exit ever.

"We're Young"

Traveling from table to table one thing stood out about the Big East Conference this season -- it's young.

It seemed almost every coach was talking about how their young guys will need to step up in order for them to compete in the league and possibly for a NCAA Tournament bid.

Curious as to how young the league really is this year I did some research, and what I found was impressive.

Only six out of 15 teams will enter the season with a pair of seniors who will play key rolls in their team's success. Syracuse has Triche and sixth man James Southerland; Notre Dame features center Jack Cooley and guard Scott Martin; Pitt has Woodall and forward Dante Taylor; Cincinnati has a pair of senior guards Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker; Villanova has forward Maurice Sutton and center Mouphtaou Yarou; and the South Florida Bulls feature forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and guard Jawanza Poland.

The rest of the teams will strongly lean on a group of underclassmen to get the job done.

What's even more surprising is those schools include: Louisville which just has Siva as its key senior; Georgetown with sophomore forward Otto Porter and junior guard Markel Starks; Marquette's lone upper classman is Cadougan (I am not counting guard Trent Lockett, who's a transfer); and UConn will be led by junior Shabazz Napier and sophomore Ryan Boatright

Meanwhile, St. John's has nine sophomores, four freshman and JUCO transfer God`sgift Achiuwa as its lone senior; the Providence Friars have just senior guard Vincent Council; the Rutgers Scarlet Knights have one senior, Dane Miller, and six sophomores; the DePaul Blue Demons are led by a pair of juniors Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young; and the Seton Hall Pirates have five juniors including Fuquan Edwin.

Kevin Ollie debuts as UConn head coach

One of the quick observations I made that I thought deserved mentioning was the debut of Connecticut Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie. The former two-time captain for the Huskies was named head coach just over a month ago after legend Jim Calhoun decided to retire after 873 wins and three national championships.

My time with Ollie was short, but he did impress me. Ollie is all UConn all the time. And if you watched Calhoun's retirement press conference on Sept. 12 you know that's how the former head coach wants his successor to be.

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