Jim Calhoun's retirement after 26 years as UConn's basketball coach reminded us how many great coaches and players have built their reputations in the Big East, which started as a basketball conference in 1979. As Calhoun departs and three programs – Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame – head for the ACC, the Big East is in decline. But its proud legacy will remain. We rank those who left the biggest mark in the Big East based on their collegiate accomplishments.
Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse
He only spent one year in college before turning pro, but what a year! Anthony averaged 22.2 points and 10 rebounds while leading the Orange to the national title in 2003.
Eric "Sleepy" Floyd, Georgetown
Despite having eyelids at half-mast, Floyd was a dynamic scorer for Georgetown in the early years of the Big East. He scored 2,304 points, still a school record, and was a first-team All-American as a senior when he teamed with freshman center Patrick Ewing to lead the Hoyas to the NCAA final, where they lost by one point to North Carolina and Michael Jordan.
Sherman Douglas, Syracuse
An unheralded recruit with average athletic ability, Douglas may have been the best pure point guard in Big East history. He finished his four-year career as the NCAA career leader in assists (he's now sixth) and also scored more than 2,000 points. He led the Orange to the 1987 national championship game as a sophomore.
Rollie Massimino, Villanova
The demonstrative coach had a lot of good seasons in 20 years in charge of the Wildcats, but he'll forever be remembered for the team's improbable NCAA tourney run in 1984. Villanova, a No. 8 seed, pulled off five upsets on the way to the title, including a colossal shocker in the final against Georgetown.
Alonzo Mourning, Georgetown
Though he never quite lived up to expectations as "the next Patrick Ewing," Mourning was a dominant force in his four years at Georgetown. He finished with more than 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 450 blocks. As a senior in 1992, he was Big East player of the year and a first-team All-American, but he failed to lead the Hoyas to a Final Four.
Kerry Kittles, Villanova
The best player in Villanova history, Kittles scored 2,243 points in a tremendous four-year career. He was Big East player of the year in 1995 and a first-team All-American in 1996.
Kemba Walker, UConn
The 6-foot-1 point guard put together an incredible postseason run in 2011, leading the Huskies to the Big East and NCAA championships. His 150 points in five games set a record for the conference tournament. Two years earlier, Walker was a superb sixth man for UConn's Final Four team.
Lou Carnesecca, St. John's
Known for his signature sweaters, "Looie" coached the Redmen for 24 years, winning at least 17 games and qualifying for a postseason tournament every season. Though St. John's reached just one Final Four in his tenure, in 1985, he was a beloved character in the Big East and twice was named national coach of the year.
Dwayne "Pearl" Washington, Syracuse
Washington had three superb seasons for Syracuse and earned All-America honors in 1985, but it was his flashy style that made him a Big East legend. A playground star in Brooklyn, his "shake and bake" moves and fancy passes brought flair and entertainment to the college game.
Richard Hamilton, UConn
In three seasons at UConn, "Rip" scored more than 2,000 points and twice earned Big East player of the year honors. He led the Huskies to their first national championship in 1999 and was named most outstanding player of the tourney.
Walter Berry, St. John's
Forget that Berry only played two seasons at St. John's and never amounted to much in the NBA. His brief stint in the Big East was extraordinary. Playing with Chris Mullin, Mark Jackson and Bill Wennington, Berry helped the Redmen reach the Final Four in 1985. The next season, he averaged 23.1 points and 11.1 rebounds and was the consensus national player of the year, one of only three Big East players ever to earn that honor.
Ray Allen, UConn
The NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers honed his craft at UConn, where he nailed nearly 45 percent of his shots from behind the arc in three college seasons. Allen averaged 21.1 points as a sophomore and 23.4 as a junior in 1996, when he was Big East player of the year and a first-team All-American.
Rick Pitino, Providence and Louisville
Pitino is still best known for leading Kentucky to the 1996 national title, but he also took two different Big East programs to the Final Four – Providence in 1987 and Louisville in 2005 and 2012. So even if you take out his success with the Wildcats (and failure with the Boston Celtics), he's made an indelible mark in Big East hoops history.
Allen Iverson, Georgetown
There's never been another basketball player in the Big East – or anywhere else – quite like Iverson, who played just two seasons at Georgetown before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 1996 NBA draft. He averaged 20.4 points as a freshman and 25.0 as a sophomore, when he was the conference player of the year and a first-team All-American. He also made an incredible 213 steals and dominated the Big East like no little man before or since.
John Thompson, Georgetown
An imposing figure on the Georgetown sideline for 27 years, the 6-foot-11 Thompson built the Hoyas into a national power. Thanks largely to his recruitment of players like Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Allen Iverson, Thompson led Georgetown to 24 NCAA tournaments and three Final Fours (all in Ewing's era), with one national title in 1984.
Derrick Coleman, Syracuse
The 6-foot-10 Coleman was one of the most talented players in Big East history. Athletic and skilled, he led the Orange to the national championship game as a freshman in 1987 and was a first-team All-American as a senior in 1990. By the time he was done at Syracuse, he'd racked up 2,143 points, 1,537 rebounds and 319 blocks.
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Boeheim has been kvetching to refs, relying on a zone defense and winning basketball games at Syracuse for the entire history of the Big East conference, and he's still going strong. Entering his 37th season with the Orange, Boeheim has won 890 games (third on the NCAA list), nine Big East regular-season titles, five conference tournament championships and one national title, in 2003.
Chris Mullin, St. John's
A crafty player with an incredible shooting touch, Mullin helped put St. John's and the Big East on the map with four outstanding seasons. He was Big East player of the year three times (sharing the honor twice) and national player of the year in 1985. Not only did he score 2,440 points, he made 55 percent of his shots, mostly from the perimeter before the advent of the 3-point line.
Jim Calhoun, UConn
Calhoun took over a hapless UConn program in 1986 and swiftly built it into a national power. Since 1990, the Huskies have been the most successful team in the Big East, winning nine regular-season conference titles, seven conference tournaments and three national championships. He retired with 873 wins, 618 at UConn.
Patrick Ewing, Georgetown
The Big East has had a lot of star players and iconic coaches, but Ewing remains the conference's biggest superstar. A three-time All-American, he led the Hoyas to three national title games, beating Houston in 1984 and losing heartbreakers to UNC and Villanova. His legacy of dominance and intimidation makes him the greatest Big East legend.