The Big East Obituaries: Providence College

Sorry for the extended delay on this one. Your humble author has been slaving away at other projects recently. But we write this because it is the stated opinion of this blog that the Big East in its present form is not long for the world. When schools like Army, Navy, and BYU are even being considered for membership in any capacity despite not making a God damn lick of sense, it's clear this league is on its way to soon being nevermore. Time to shake hands and go our separate ways, gents. No hard feelings. Fresh air, Times Square... you understand.

So just like how newspapers often write the obituaries of people before they pass on so they're prepared when it happens, today we continue our series of posts preparing for the eminent eulogizing of our soon-to-be fallen Big East brethren. Today's entrant: Providence College. And if you missed our previous entry on DePaul University, you can find that here.

Providence College (1979-Soon)

Providence College was a charter member of the Big East Conference, and a fundamental reason for the league to exist in the first place. The history of the Big East is inexorably tied to the nation's only higher educational institution administered by the Dominican Order of Friars. The motto of the Dominicans is Vertias (truth) and Caritas (mercy). Which is why it is sad to observe that the Vertias is Providence isn't good at anything, and it is with Caritas that the Big East put it out of its bumbling misery today.

Providence's former head basketball coach Dave Gavitt, rightfully known as the father of the Big East Conference, was an integral part of bringing together six Catholic Northeast schools and Connecticut to form a league focused on basketball. After a successful head coaching career at PC, Gavitt was hired as the first commissioner in 1979. It could be argued that was the last positive thing the Friars have done for the league.

Gary Walters and Joe Mullaney succeeded Gavitt, and guided PC to exactly zero NCAA Tournaments for the next six seasons. Eventually Knicks assistant coach Rick Pitino was brought in to save the sinking ship, because there was never any chance that a loyal coach like Pitino would ever abandon a program after finding any success whatsoever. In 1987 the Friars, led by Butch Patrick Billy Donovan, gave P-Town their second Final Four in program history. Pitino was named the Knicks head coach shortly thereafter.

The rest after the jump.

Providence then proceeded to hire every basketball coach with major shortcomings available on the market for the next 25 years. Rick Barnes was hired in 1988, and is still coaching today at Texas, but continues to be unfamiliar with basketball terms such as "clock management," "defensive system," or "pick and roll." Coaching Gnome Pete Gillen took talent he didn't recruit such as Austin Croshere and God Shammgod to an Elite Eight in 1997, then ran as fast as possible to Virginia when he realized that recruiting players to live in the city of Providence is more difficult than finding something fun to do in the city of Providence after 9pm on a weeknight. Or a weekend. Or basically anytime.

Gillen was replaced by Tim Welsh, and then Keno Davis. Combined, they won as many NCAA Tournament games in the last 13 years as anyone that is reading this eulogy who has never coached a day of college basketball.

The Friars lasting legacy within the Big East includes the unusual amount of sway the school has held over its conference brethren. Providence has been the home of the conference offices since the league's formation, and all three Big East commissioners worked as administrators at PC (Mike Tranghese and John Marinatto are both former Friar sports information directors). Some would argue this quirk of fate has allowed the interests of Providence to be placed too high in the league's list of priorities. The "some" includes anyone with an ability to read, assess facts, and analyze data.

In Olympic sports, PC has failed in a manner that can only be described as epic. The entire list of conference regular season and tournament championships won by the Friars in all sports since the 16-team expansion are the men's and women's cross country title in 2006, and a shared field hockey regular season crown that same year. That's it. All of them. I looked it up.

Providence Athletics is survived by the America East Conference, where for some reason their volleyball team competes already. We're as dumbfounded about that as you are. With a student body of just under 4,000 undergrads, the Friars will be much happier and in a place where they can compete and win consistently. And for the rest of the league, they'll be much happier that decisions are being made on behalf of the schools that are driving revenue and more capable of competing at the highest levels in the modern collegiate athletics landscape. But it will be tough to let go of such grand traditions such as a lobster eating contest amongst football players at the annual media days, and the gorgeous destination city that is the capital of Rhode Island in the middle of winter. Right.

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