Pitino: Big East Will Never Be Same Without Syracuse

It remains unclear when Syracuse will play its last Big East game.

The way things look now, it appears the Orange, along with Pittsburgh, will remain in the league through the 2012-13 basketball season.

Whenever they do leave, Louisville coach Rick Pitino says things will never be the same.

“I don’t think the Big East Tournament will ever be the same without Syracuse because if anybody belongs in the Big East, they have the most fans in the metropolitan area,” Pitino said Thursday.

“It’s never going to quite be the same without Syracuse, but times move on.”

Syracuse is currently No. 2 in the nation and sits atop the Big East standings.

“Right now, you realize that Syracuse is in a class by itself,” said Pitino, whose team lost to the Orange, 52-51, Monday.

West Virginia, meantime, will play its last Big East Tournament next month and will head to the Big 12 in June.

“Obviously, it’s the last time we’ll see West Virginia and certainly we’re going to miss them and Bob Huggins,” Pitino added.

While there is speculation that Louisville might follow West Virginia to the Big 12, Pitino said he doesn’t expect it to happen.

“[Louisville AD] Tom [Jurich] is perfectly satisfied with what the Big East is all about, has always been that way,” Pitino said. “The Big 12 had an opportunity to possibly get Louisville last year and they didn’t take that opportunity. We think we have one of the premier athletic programs in the nation, not just in basketball….so we’ve never looked to go anywhere else.

“We just want to make sure that football’s been intact and obviously with the moves that John Marinatto has made with Houston, SMU and Boise STate, he’s obviously done a fantastic job in putting together even a stronger football program. I don’t think Tom has ever looked anywhere, to be honest with you. That doesn’t mean in the future, we can say we’re going to be in the Big East 20 years from now. I don’t know what the landscape is.

“If you’re asking me personally, I’m a Big East guy through thick and thin. To me, I wouldn’t mind dying a Big East coach. So for me to play in Madison Square Garden in the Big East Tournament, to be a Big East coach is very special for me, especially in the year that Dave Gavitt passed. It’s very, very special to be a part of it.”

Pitino campaigned for Memphis and Temple to join the Big East and now he’s halfway there after Memphis was admitted beginning in 2013.

“I’ve been a very staunch supporter of bringing in Memphis as well as Temple,” he said. “I think that we can use Temple in basketball.”

He said other sports could “catch a bus” from Georgetown, Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Providence and UConn “and they don’t have to hop on planes, they don’t have to wait at airports, they can just get on a bus and compete.”

“Financially, it makes so much sense for Temple to be in the Big East,” Pitino added. “Now I say all of that, that’s whether or not the Presidents and the athletic directors want to expand further. If they want to expand further, there’s no better school, there’s no better program.

“Temple is an ideal fit. Inner-city school, great tradition in basketball, great culture for the other sports and it fits in the dynamics. I think we want to right now — at least I know I do as someone who started out in 1986 — we want to really in the year Dave Gavitt passed, we really want to protect his legacy of what he built up. And I think by adding Memphis, that certainly does that.

“If we were to expand further, Temple would certainly be a natural for us.”

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