Whether it is pure excitement, understandable relief, or what he would often call "competitive spirit," Steve Lavin is psyched for the newest iteration of the Big East Conference. The St. John's head coach is about to begin to tackle the historic conference for a fourth year.
But this time, it's an entirely new beast.
The conference now showcases ten schools, all but one Catholic (Butler). Each institution is unique, but the profile gap has diminished severely - each team's marquee revenue sport is basketball, not football. And the teams will play a true home-and-home series against each opponent.
The Big East has reverted to its roots of the early 1980's, when the league and then-fledgling ESPN grew their reputations together.
You should see Steve Lavin's eyes when he talks about the new Big East Conference.
"Now, the entire league mirrors one another," Lavin told the Rumble at Saturday's Dribble for the Cure event at St. John's. "It's analogous to a neighborhood, as the homes now look more alike."
The Big East that existed for the past eight years wasn't necessarily unfair. But the sports focus was divided, which deviated from Dave Gavitt's vision in 1979.
The way in which the "old" Big East was structured made it difficult for smaller private, non-football athletic departments to compete financially.
"The reality was that where programs like Louisville, Connecticut, Syracuse and Pittsburgh were in the last ten or fifteen years, along with the arms race that existed with facilities and the football revenue stream, they were different from the seven schools that remained in the Big East," Lavin said.
There was no secret with how the old conference ultimately fell apart. The experiment of synthesizing schools worked, until the resources involved in college football changed the financial dynamic. With such different profiles, there was no way they could continue to co-exist.
"Some of those schools were on a whole other level," Lavin said. "It' wasn't that in a given year a Villanova or Georgetown couldn't go to the Final Four or St. John's couldn't make a run at an Elite Eight. But, on the whole, those [larger schools] were going to have an edge."
Now, the "new" Big East embarks on its first season, welcoming traditional basketball mid-major powers Butler, Creighton and Xavier. The league, which places importance on basketball first and foremost, is a throwback.
Though the conference will match the three newcomers with seven programs including St. John's, Georgetown, Villanova and Marquette, the landscape feels revamped. But the toughness and style of play is expected to remain the same.
"The style of play will not be dramatically different," Lavin continued. "I expect the games to still be very physical, competitive and heated. Also playing home-and-home allows for more rivalries to develop, and it's nice to get a second chance at anyone."
D`Angelo Harrison agrees with his head coach, especially since he is entering his third full season competing against Big East-level competition.
"No, I don't think [there will be a shift in style]. It definitely doesn't get easier," Harrison said on Saturday. "I feel like people think it's getting easier, but it really didn't. These teams are always near the top of the country. Actually, it probably got tougher."