You know you are getting old when you're nostalgic for something that began and ended in your years as an adult on this earth.

There was no Big East basketball when I was growing up. There was the Big Five in Philadelphia, UCLA, the ACC and a handful of other college basketball attractions.

But the Big East basketball conference began in 1979, and now it is coming to a sort of end, with a rebirth coming in the form of the new Catholic schools conference that will get the Big East name.

This restructuring -- perhaps a better word -- of the Big East, along with the end of the Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry with Syracuse heading to the ACC, has brought on a wave of nostalgia for the good old days when men with personalities roamed the court, like John Thompson Jr., Rollie Massimino and Lou Carnesecca.

It's also been a reminder of the great college basketball players that have competed in the Big East -- and a challenge to come up with a starting five of the greatest Big East players in the history of the conference.

I accept the challenge:

Let's start with the big man -- Georgetown center Patrick Ewing, probably the greatest Big East player of all time and one of the best college players ever.

Ewing was a two-time Big East Player of the Year. He was a four-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year. And he led the Hoyas to three Final Fours and one National Championship in 1984.

Other centers that might get a vote from their relatives include Alonzo Mourning, Rony Seikaly, Dikembe Mutombo, Ed Pinckney and Emeka Okafor. But Ewing is a lock.

It gets tougher after that. Chris Mullin has to play somewhere -- he was a three-time Big East Player of the Year at St. John's -- and beats out Carmelo Anthony, Caron Butler and Georgetown's Reggie Williams for small forward.

If you went all-St. John's at forward, I might not have a problem with that. Walter Berry may have only spent three years in the NBA, but he was a great college basketball player -- Big East Player of the Year and recipient of the John Wooden Award in 1986.

But it says here if you lined up the best five in Big East history, Derrick Coleman is your power forward. His effort as a pro many nights was a waste of talent, but there was no denying that talent when he was at Syracuse. He was Big East Player of the Year in 1990 and is still the all-time leading rebounder.

Guard play is particularly challenging. My backcourt is Dwayne "Pearl" Washington, one of the original Big East stars, and Ray Allen, the 1996 Big East Player of the Year who beat Allen Iverson and Georgetown in the Big East finals that year. Iverson, Sherman Douglas, Sleepy Floyd and Richard Hamilton all merit some consideration as well.


columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and Contact him at