The 1980s were a fun time - listening to Purple Rain on your Walkman and asking "Where's the Beef?" Now I missed being an 80s baby by a couple of years (not that I'd trade in the Attitude Era and the Fab Five for anything), but I always say how freakin' sweet it would be to live in the 80s.
Basketball during this era was an interesting time. The game's popularity started to boom as Bird v. Magic transitioned from the college game to the pro's, Phi Slamma Jamma ruled the college basketball world, and a kid from North Carolina defied gravity. The game was quickly moving out of the slow days of the 60s and 70s and into one of the most popular sports in the world.
So strap on your leg warmers and spray some Soul-Glo on that Jheri Curl because Big East Coast Bias is taking a Delorean back to the 80s to discuss who we believe is the greatest Big East player of the decade.
Ben Florance - Naturally it is hard to pick against Patrick Ewing as the the best player in the 80s for the Big East, but for the sake of spoiling any potential uniformity (because who likes that?), I will go with the player that came closest to sweeping all of the player of the year awards. No, that was not Ewing, who won *only* four of the six POTY awards in 1985. It came the next year as Walter Berry went 5-for-6, losing the Naismith Award to Johnny Dawkins. Berry may have been overshadowed by Chris Mullin in 1985, but he made a star turn the following year, averaging 23 and 11. Berry, known as "The Truth" when Paul Pierce was in grammar school, had a truly unique offensive game as he never had anything that could be classified as a jump shot, nor was he fond of ever using his left hand. And after all, this is a man that once said later that "my game does not consist of fundamentals" during his disappointing professional career.
Robert O'Neill - As someone who grew up as a fan of the 90's Bulls, I'd love to be able to put Bill Wennington here, but Bill Wennington wasn't even the best player on his team. With that being said, the best player in the 1980's Big East was Chris Mullin. Sure, Patrick Ewing was also good (arguably better, but no one would read this if we all picked Ewing), but Chris Mullin, in the grand scheme of things, meant more to the program he played for. Before Patrick Ewing got to Georgetown, John Thompson's squads had already tasted success, winning the Big East in 1979-1980, and making it all the way to the Elite Eight that season. Adding Ewing was more so a "rich getting richer" move. St. John's, however, was in a different boat. Yes, Lou Carnesecca had gotten them into the tournament a few times, but in 6 of Carnesecca's first 8 seasons St. John's either missed the tournament or lost in the first round. Chris Mullin helped them win 2 Big East titles in his 4 years there, and led the Red Storm to its first Final Four in 33 years in 1985, a year in which Mullin also won the Naismith Award. Mullin finished his collegiate career as St. John's all-time leading scorer by a wide margin. He also was named Big East Player of the Year thrice as opposed to Ewing's two times winning. It's a very close debate between the two players, but I have to go with Chris Mullin over Patrick Ewing. As I said above, after all, I am a 90's Bulls fan.
Andrew Padyk - Thinking about this question, the easy answer is to say Patrick Ewing, but uniformity is a little boring and there are a number of players to choose from. The decade began with Sleepy Floyd as one of the first big names in the conference and ended with the likes of Derrick Coleman and Alonzo Mourning. My pick, however, for best of the decade goes to Chris Mullin of St. John's. Mulllin was the perfect foil to Ewing and the Hoyas of Georgetown in the eternal debate of St. John's against Georgetown during the mid-1980's. During his time with St. John's, Mullin was one of the purest shooters on the court. As a freshman he averaged 16.6 ppg and it was just the start of things to come. By his junior season, he was averaging nearly 23 points per and was shooting 57 percent from the floor. It is not surprising that he is St. John's leading scorer by a wide margin. In his four years, he also took home three Big East Player of the Years awards and was twice a consensus All-American. The hallmark of Mullin's career is the 1984-85 season, his senior season. That year that he took home Player of the Year honors and the Wooden Award, and guided the then-St. John's Redmen to their 2nd Big East title and a Final Four appearance, the only one in Lou Carnesecca's tenure as coach. While Ewing and the Hoyas took home bigger honors, the play of Mullin proved that it was not just about Georgetown or Ewing. That there were equally talented players elsewhere during this time as well.
Pierce Roberson - Without a doubt, Patrick Ewing is the greatest Big East player of the 1980s. The conference was relatively new and in search of its first big star, and in comes a 7-footer from Kingston, Jamaica (by way of Cambridge, MA). He was just a monster underneath the basket. Almost 30 years since he last played a Big East game, he still holds the conference record for blocks and field-goal percentage, and is still among the greatest scorers in Big East history. Not to mention, Ewing went to the National Championship game 3 out of 4 years - taking the title and the Final Four MOP award in 1984. His awards are plentiful, but the most interesting - and the one that will give way to the most debate on this discussion - may be his Conference POY awards. Ewing shared the trophy in 1984 and 1985 with Chris Mullin, who won it outright in 1983, giving him one more POY honor than Ewing.
Sean Saint Jacques - The obvious answer to this question is Patrick Ewing. It is not just because of his numbers or that fact that many of his teams were successful. His physical traits and versatile game are what set him apart from the Chris Mullins of the world, who come in second place as far as this debate is concerned. John Thompson II tells the story all the time of when Georgetown would play games in the NCAA Tournament against teams like Villanova. Coach Thompson would tell Ewing to swat any ball that came towards the rim, even if it was going to result in a goaltend, for the first few minutes of the game. This instilled fear in the opponents, and before the game had even really gotten underway, Ewing had won the mental battle. This, coupled with his great college numbers in the country's best conference at that time, not only makes him the best Big East player of the decade, but the best player in the country during that time frame in college basketball.
Devonte Brooks - Favorite Big East player of the 80's? Sheesh. I was not even born then, but as a Georgetown fan, I would have to say Patrick Ewing. Just the energy that he had when he played - Ewing was a beast. I see John Thompson every weekend at Kenner League and you can't really go against that. He was so good and people loved his style. Reminiscing about this makes me wish that the Big East basketball would get back like it use to with the physical aggression, but not to the point with fights.