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Dave Gavitt’s legacy extends beyond just creating Big East


Mike Miller

Even if the Big East doesn’t survive this, Dave Gavitt’s legacy is secure. He was more than just the father of the Big East.

The legendary college hoops figure, who died Saturday, was an incredible coach, smart athletic director, canny businessman and great with people. Essentially, he was a man ahead of the times. Seemingly everyone in college hoops had nothing but glowing things to say about him. This Jim Calhoun quote is fairly standard.

“While he was changing the face of college basketball with the Big East and NCAA Selection Committee, he was still able to influence so many, including me personally,” the Connecticut coach told the AP. “He never didn’t have time to talk about the game. His legacy will always include his kindness as well as his greatness. He will be greatly, greatly missed.”

It extends past the Big East, too. Here’s Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany to the New York Times: “He’s really one of the most significant people in college sports the last 30 or 40 years. As a coach, administrator and a friend not only to coaches but to administrators. I can’t tell you how many people he’s touched in the basketball community.”

The timeline of Gavitt’s career goes something like this: College hoops player, Providence assistant, Dartmouth head coach, Providence coach (with a Final Four berth), Providence AD, Big East founder, commissioner, Celtics honcho and crucial aspect to USA hoops.

Friars fans hold him in incredibly high esteem –
this Bill Reynolds column from the Journal sums it up nicely – but just listing his deeds doesn’t really do him justice. So for that, I’ll turn to Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe:

Dave Gavitt was bigger than the NBA. He was perhaps the single most important non-playing figure in college basketball over a 20-year period.

He was an American leader in the realm of international basketball. As founder of the Big East, he changed the entire landscape of Eastern college basketball. This made him The Man To See on all matters administrative in college basketball, and it eventually led to his becoming head of USA Basketball.

He was the de facto general manager of the One and Only Dream Team, an honor he deserved, if only because he had been head coach of the 1980 Olympic team that never made it to Moscow after President Carter decided that the US had to boycott those Olympics in protest of the Soviet invasion of - talk about irony - Afghanistan.

If all Gavitt did was create the Big East, that’d be enough. The conference is home to some of college hoops’ elite programs, its most recent national champs and the home to the sport’s best conference tournament. The memories, oh the memories.

But to be the guy behind the Dream Team as well? That’s beyond a cherry on top. That’s a whole other sundae.

The Big East may not be around much longer. That its death knell was sounded the day Gavitt died is unfortunate. But the man cemented his place in hoops history long before any of it happened.

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You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.