The Atlantic 10 Conference held their Men’s Basketball Media Day on Tuesday at Barclays Center. This is the third year that the arena has been the home of the A-10, hosting their tournament in March.
The A-10 now boasts 14 teams, with new addition Davidson joining a conference that includes VCU, St. Joseph’s, St. Bonaventure, Dayton, and St. Louis. Having the tournament at Barclays Center has helped the conference in terms of prestige, and it has become one of the best in the country, on par with the Big East and ACC. They sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament, including St. Joseph’s, who won the conference tournament, and Dayton, who made a run to the Elite Eight.
Some of the head coaches in the conference, including Phil Martelli of St. Joseph’s, Shaka Smart of VCU, and Jim Ferry of Duquesne, talked on Tuesday about the impact of Barclays Center on their conference:
Mark Schmidt, St. Bonaventure Bonnies Head Coach, 8th year: “”I think it’s helped from a national standpoint. We’ve got the respect where, the Atlantic 10 has always been good, but it never got the exposure or recognition that it deserved, bu,t I think having it at Barclays Center, being in New York, and having the success that we had last year, all that has really made the Atlantic 10 one of the best conferences in the country, and people know that now. It’s no longer the A-10 as ‘oh, yeah, that’s a good league,’ now it’s one of the better leagues and I think this venue has helped it. It’s almost like people look at it as like, ‘man, they’re playing in the Barclays Center, that’s big time’ rather than playing elsewhere.”
The A-10 Tournament used to be held in Atlantic City, and the conference kid of was prescient in getting out of there considering the troubles befalling that city. Schmidt said of that, “I would think if we were in Atlantic City, it would be such a negative, it would be like a second class, believe me, nothing against Atlantic City, but it’s just not the right venue, it just doesn’t come across. Even though we won it in Atlantic City and it’s close to my heart, this (Brooklyn) is legit, you can’t get better than this for everything, the locker rooms, everything is first class, and that’s what you want if you want to compete and say you’re one of the better conferences in the country, you’ve gotta play in one of the best facilities in the country, and the Barclays is.”
Jim Crews, Saint Louis Billikens Head Coach, 3rd year: “I think the tournament here is great. In terms of (being responsible for) the growth of the league, I don’t know if that is or not, I don’t know that. I know the success of the teams in the league has made it grow because then there’s not only the success, but visibility. I think the tournament here is great, I love it.”
Archie Miller, Dayton Flyers Head Coach, 4th year: “It’s really helped our conference. It continues to put it on a stage that it needs to be on. I think that’s really important, and it’s the excitement level in postseason, it’s a championship that you want to be a part of.”
Phil Martelli, St. Joseph’s Hawks Head Coach, 20th year: “I thought it was great last year, great building last year,” referring to their tournament title, which they won over VCU in a hard-fought Championship game. “I think that everything about the building for the kids is very, very special. Now, if you said to me ‘what are concessions like, what’s the seating like,’ I don’t have any idea. We come in, we play, we stay in the hallways, but for the players, just getting on a bus, being on the bus elevator (which spins to accomodate the turn into the building), they know that they’re at a state-of-the-art arena. I don’t think that they would play any differently if they played outdoors at 52nd and Parkside in Philadelphia or played here, but it’s special, and you are in the biggest, craziest city in the world, so it’s nice, it’s a great venue.”
On what it has done for the stature of the conference specifically, Martelli said, “I don’t know the answer to that question. I know that the stature of this conference is on the backs of these players that we’ve had and the unbelievable coaches and now the great administration that we had, so the building is kind of, maybe a cherry on top of a sundae, would be the way I would describe it, and being in New York. The stature of the league comes down to the players that we have.”
Chris Mooney, Richmond Spiders Head Coach, 11th year: “I think the biggest thing is when kids tune in and see it on TV, it just aligns you with some of the best basketball in the world, you know, you have great college tournaments, you have NBA teams. It’s the coolest arena, so I think it just puts you in the same category as the big time.”
Shaka Smart, VCU Rams Head Coach, 6th year: “It’s been great, it’s been a terrific venue, the people here have done a great job, the Nets staff have been great, and we’re excited about that. We get to play two games here in November, and then hopefully, if things go well, we’ll play three games here in March.” Smart was referring to VCU participating in the Legends Classic at Barclays Center on November 24th and 25th. They play Villanova on the 24th at 7:00 pm, and will face Michigan or Oregon the next night.
Smart said specifically on Barclays helping the prestige of the conference, “It’s been great, especially as the conference has really changed over the past few years, you know, being here in a venue that’s second to none has been a very good thing for just the exposure, being in New York City, and the amount of attention that this city and basketball in this city gets, it’s been a good thing. Our league has gone head up with certain other leagues (likely referring to the Big East) in terms of when we play, and I think the conference has done a really good job.”
Jim Ferry, Duquesne Dukes, Head Coach, 3rd year (formerly at LIU Brooklyn): “I think, I don’t want to say solidifies it, but it does somewhat. Everybody has talked about the Big East having Madison Square Garden, well, now us being in the hottest place in America in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center, the newest arena, I think it’s great. I think it fits perfectly for what we are. We are a premier conference playing in a premier city, so I think it helps a lot.”
Paul Hewitt, George Mason Patriots Head Coach, 4th year: “I know it’s helped recruiting. This whole northeast corridor, Philly, New York, you do a lot of recruiting in this area, and then the fact that the game is on Sunday on CBS. I know a lot of leagues are going away from playing those Sunday games in preparation for the NCAA Tournament, but I think where we are, the publicity that we get on that Sunday afternoon, I think it’s a 1:00 tip, does a lot. Unfortunately, I was out recruiting last year, I was walking through the airport, I saw the game on TV, so I sat at a bar and watched some of it. Hopefully, I won’t be at that airport this year.”
Tom Pecora, Fordham Rams Head Coach, 5th year: “I think it’s exactly what this conference deserves. We are one of the premier conferences in college basketball, and we deserve to be playing; in my opinion, in the greatest city in the world, but also in a state of the art arena, even when we move on in a couple of years, you know, beautiful place in Pittsburgh, a major arena in a major city. Beautiful venue in D.C. Major conferences belong playing in major arenas in major cities, and we’ll come back here to Barclays, but that’s what the A-10 deserves.”