Fordham coach Tom Pecora referred to it as a “rebirth” of college basketball in New York. Rhode Island coach Jim Baron, a Brooklyn native, joked after a game you could go around the corner to Junior’s for some cheesecake.
Both coaches, like many other New York-area college basketball insiders, believe the Atlantic-10’s announcement to bring its conference tournament to the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn was a brilliant move.
Atlantic-10 and Barclays Center officials announced their five-year deal at a joint press conference at the New York Times Building on Wednesday.
The move was a logical one for the conference, which struggled at times to draw big crowds to Atlantic City’s Boarwalk Hall for its tournament the last few seasons. Last season’s tournament final between Dayton and Richmond drew just 5,602 to the 10,500-seat Boardwalk Hall arena.
The A-10 typically signs three-year tournament deals, but this a deal conference commissioner Bernadetta V. McGlade said they couldn't refuse. The Boardwalk Hall offered a two-year extension, but the A-10 couldn't turn down a chance to play its tournament games in an 18,000-seat NBA arena in New York City.
"Our goal was to go as long as we could," said Barclays CEO Brett Yormark.
There was some concern about the scheduling since the Atlantic-10 and Big East tournament are held the same week, but with the championship games being held on different days, A-10 officials and coaches are convinced it is a win-win situation.
“For the conference it’s part of a tremendous growth process,” said Pecora. “You’re going to have the best weekend of college basketball with ourselves and the Big East tournament going on at the same time.”
The Big East tournament final is on Saturday and the A-10 final is on Sunday.
As for his “rebirth” of New York basketball theory, Pecora couldn’t have been more correct with his assessment. The resurgence of St. John’s, the emergence of LIU and the addition of the A-10 tournament in the city could give New York-area programs a leg up in recruiting.
“It’s obviously a great draw for us at Fordham to have the tournament in our own backyard,” said Pecora. “It’s going to be a huge positive for our fan and alumni base and our recruiting base.”
Pecora said nine of his 13 players are New York City-area natives.
As for Baron, who grew up in Brooklyn’s Green Point section, the tournament will be a tremendous draw for local basketball fans.
“Having a tournament that you can take a bus or subway to is huge,” said Baron. “And it’s especially big for Brooklyn.”