New Big East commish means stability

November, 11, 2008
11/11/08
9:03
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

I walked over to talk to Louisville coach Rick Pitino during halftime of a game at last season's Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden. Pitino was sitting with John Marinatto, whom he introduced to me as "the next Big East commissioner."

Providence College guys gotta stick together, you know?

Marinatto will continue the Providence tradition when he is officially named the new Big East commissioner at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Marinatto was Providence College's athletic director from 1987-2001 and has been a senior associate commissioner for the league ever since. He'll succeed Mike Tranghese, who is retiring next summer after 19 years in the post. Tranghese was Providence's sports information director under athletic director Dave Gavitt until 1979. That's when Gavitt became the first commissioner of the Big East and hired Tranghese as the conference's first full-time employee.

So it's safe to say this is a peaceful transition of power.

By choosing someone with such close ties to Tranghese and the league's history, Big East presidents have signaled that they like things the way they are. So don't expect Marinatto to come in and make major changes. Forget football expansion or downsizing the 16-team basketball alignment. People often overrate a commissioner's role in those things, anyway, since the presidents and the athletic directors have the major say in who is let in or kept out.

I asked Tranghese in September what kind of attributes the new commissioner should have. While Tranghese insisted he had no role in picking a successor, he said the following:

"Well, I just think it's got to be someone who understands us. I mean, we're very different, with the fact that we are 16, that we are diverse, that we have some schools that play football and some who don't. So running our conference is not similar to what others do. So I think it's going to take someone who understands our uniqueness and embraces it rather than fights it. And then I think it's the same qualities that any conference looks for: Someone who can provide leadership and can handle all the challenges of the job."

Looks like they found their man.

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