Sunday January 27, 2013

When Paul Brazeau left the National Basketball Association's front office to run men's basketball operations for the Big East, the North Adams native must have thought he was stepping into a fairly straightforward job.

Not so much.

The upheval in the Big East that began when Pittsburgh and Syracuse bolted for the ACC kicked into high gear this winter when Rutgers announced it would join the Big Ten, Louisville would join Pitt and Syracuse in the ACC and the seven non-football playing Big East members all said they would bolt to form their own conference in a couple of seasons.

"There's been a lot that's gone on in November, that's for sure. It's all stuff that as it plays out, will be good for everybody," Brazeau said. "It'll work out well. There'll be a couple of strong leagues formed out of the teams that are withdrawing and the teams that are staying. There will be two strong leagues out there."

Brazeau was a three-sport athlete at Drury, graduated from Boston College in 1981 and spent decades in coaching. He was the head coach at the University of Hartford from 1992-2000, and had a 100-123 record.

Since Brazeau took the UHartford job in 1992, there have only been six seasons of men's basketball where the Hawks had a .500 or better record -- and Brazeau coached them to four of them. That is a story for another day.

Brazeau, 53, joined the Big East on Nov. 11 as the senior associate commissioner for men's basketball.


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He is the lead administrator and contact for the sport, and serves as the Big East's liason with Madison Square Garden, home of the Big East Tournament.

"The coaching is a lot of fun. I always enjoyed it for sure," he said. "I don't dwell on it, so I don't miss it from that standpoint. I'm still involved in the game and it's the game that makes it fun.

"Even though I stepped away from the sidelines, I've been involved in basketball my whole professional life. This is another step along the way."

Brazeau said that if another coaching opportunity came along, he would consider it. That, however, is not "the kind of path that is going to happen."

The game has changed a lot since he stopped coaching in 2000. There are more and better players both from the States and from overseas. There may be more players, but Brazeau said coaches are more in the center of the target now than when he coached -- and for many reasons.

"Everybody gets paid way more now," Brazeau said with a laugh. "The advent of the Internet and all that goes along with it in terms of scrutiny is difficult. You're always in a media cycle. There's always someone watching, tweeting, blogging, taking snap pictures -- it's a whole different thing. It's a very public and widespread kind of business now."

While the latest earthquake regarding college realignment is over, Paul Brazeau said that it may never really be over.

"You never know what's coming around the corner, so to speak," he said. "We have quality institutions and quality athletic programs. Everyone needs a place. Certainly this group that's in place, and the group that's withdrawing are good schools and good institutions with good histories.

"It's all going to work out for them."