Syracuse had just won the NCAA championship, not to mention the Big 12, having dispatched Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas along the way.
The scribe from Boston in the crumpled suit, who shall remain nameless, walked into the press room at the New Orleans Superdome and puffed out his chest.
“Well, I guess the Big East owns the Big 12,” said the scribe. “Still the best. As it should be.”
This is the Big East I came to despise so many winters ago. Haughty. Irrepressibly arrogant. Completely and unabashedly full of itself.
And the worst part of it was, it could back it up. The league was full of superstars and Hall of Fame coaches, characters and basketball meccas. Other leagues might have had superstars and meccas, but in the national media — the East Coast media — the others never measured up.
That's because, to them, basketball is an East Coast game. The city game. A playground birthright.
Anything learned in the small-town hoops in the South or Midwest or on the beaches of California was something less, some mutant hybrid form of basketball.
I think about those days now and I smile. Especially as I drive to the CenturyLink Center today to watch Omaha vs. Cincinnati for a share of first place in the Big East Conference.
Creighton vs. Xavier, coached by men who grew up in small-town Iowa and Cincinnati, will try to do the Big East proud.
The man in the spotlight will be Doug McDermott, the CU senior and a national player of the year candidate. Yes, the Big East once again has the best player in the country. From small-town Iowa.
This is not your father's Big East Conference.
This is not Dan Gavitt's father's Big East Conference, either.
Gavitt runs the NCAA basketball tournament and has quite a college hoops pedigree. His father, the late Dave Gavitt, was the genius behind the Big East Conference.
In a world run by college football, in the same year (1979) that ESPN and the modern-era Final Four were born, Gavitt took a bunch of eastern basketball schools and formed a hoops-minded league. It rode the wave of cable TV and the explosion of the Final Four in the decade that was the Big '80s.
It was brilliant. Then the Big East lost its way, tried to become a football league. It broke apart.
Now, here we are 35 years later, and the new Big East is trying the same formula with different parts: Creighton, Xavier and Butler.
I called Gavitt on Friday, at his NCAA office. I asked him: What would his father have thought of this league?
“He would have been absolutely thrilled,” Gavitt said. “He was an advocate for basketball and the schools who emphasized it in a football world. He would be happy that many of the schools that started with him are still in the league. He cared a lot for their well-being.
“To him, the Big East was a family. And he would be happy and proud that most of it stayed together. He would also be thrilled that Creighton, Butler and Xavier joined the league. These are places that have a deep passion and tradition in the sport.”
Now I'm a Big East writer, and it's an interesting place to be. Love it or hate it, the Big East earned its place in the game's lore. John Thompson, the towel and the scowl. Patrick Ewing. Louie Carnesecca and Chris Mullin. Rollie Massimino and the Legend of 1985. Jim Boeheim. Even in later years, Connecticut, Louisville and Pittsburgh would deliver.
But now the men like Rick Pitino and Jim Calhoun, who did a lot of the heavy lifting for the league the last decade, are gone. There aren't many great players or characters anymore. The Big East's identity is good, not great, hoops.
It will never be the same.
That's not to say the hoops can't be great, that the Big East can't take a regular spot at the Final Four table. That it can't put on the must-see TV show again, only this time on Fox Sports 1.
Creighton, Butler and Xavier look ready-made to bring immediate help. Rob Anderson, CU's sports information director, cranked out some numbers this week that show that in the last eight years, Butler (205), Xavier (185) and CU (182) won the most games of any of the current Big East schools. (Marquette was fourth with 180.)
Anderson's research also showed that in the last four years, CU won the most games of any league school (93), followed by Butler (86) and Marquette (84).
It should be noted that Creighton (Missouri Valley), Butler (Horizon) and Xavier (Atlantic-10) weren't playing Louisville, Syracuse or Pitt every other game. The point is, these programs are in good shape, they're used to winning and they should boost the league profile.
What they can't do is bring back that old Big East attitude.
That's probably gone for good. For one thing, CU, Butler and Xavier are not bold and brash. They aren't going to light up a cigar after a win and blow the smoke in your face.
Mostly, these aren't East Coast schools. And the rosters of Creighton and Butler, in particular, are loaded with small-town, Midwestern kids.
How about that? The Big East now has hoops attached to barns.
This is no surprise. The league had gone outside its region awhile ago, adding Marquette, DePaul and Louisville. But the reason the Big East won't have that East Coast swagger: College basketball is no longer a regional sport.
And before you blame it on all things realignment, it's not that.
In fact, the addition of CU, Butler and Xavier makes perfect sense in today's world. Let the man named Gavitt explain.
“This is not the same game anymore,” Gavitt said. “In the old Big East, the schools were tied together by the cities, by the playgrounds. The players on all the teams knew each other from their playgrounds. They all played together. That really helped start a lot of the rivalries.
“But the game has changed now. The elite players aren't on all the playgrounds. They come from everywhere. They're in the AAU programs. They fly around the country in planes. The kids are from everywhere, and they all know each other. It's not unusual for a kid from Indiana to be friends with a kid from New York. It's how it is.
“For example, Georgetown has a kid from Indianapolis. And Butler has a player from Rhode Island. It isn't like it used to be.”
It's a day now where a kid named Doug McDermott can grow up in Iowa and dream of playing in Patrick Ewing's league and taking the court at Madison Square Garden. The poster boy for Big East basketball is a kid from Iowa, who used to look out his bus window at cornfields on the way to games.
This sounds like a Big East Conference I could learn to like.