BOSTON — Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan didn’t have time during practice to glance up at the rafters in TD Garden where 17 Celtics championship banners hung until Tuesday.
“We only get 50 minutes,” he said Wednesday, “so we tried to take advantage of every minute we were out there on the court.”
The green-and-white banners were removed for the NCAA East semifinals. Wisconsin (26-9) faces Syracuse (33-2) in Thursday night’s opener with Ohio State (29-7) meeting Cincinnati (25-10) in the second game.
The Celtics won 16 of their championships in the old Boston Garden. Their current arena opened in 1995 and they didn’t win a championship since then until 2008.
Also removed were banners with the Celtics retired numbers, including Larry Bird’s 33.
“It’s an honor to be here, to play in an arena like this. I don’t think this is the arena where Larry Bird played at, is it?’ said Syracuse’s Scoop Jardine, who was 3 when Bird retired after the 1991-92 season. “We know this is an NBA venue, and it’s always great to play on an NBA floor. The tradition here alone in Boston is great, and I’m just happy to be a part of something like this.”
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said “I’ve always been a Celtics fan, going way back.” And Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said he’s “a big Kevin Garnett fan.”
Cronin’s also “excited to be coaching where Doc Rivers coaches, even though he didn’t send me his son. I could have used him.”
Austin Rivers went to Duke, where he just finished an outstanding season as a freshman point guard.
CONFERENCE QUIPS: Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim isn’t a big fan of all the conference realignment going on in college sports.
The Big East is loaded with teams, 16 that play basketball. And that makes Syracuse small forward Kris Joseph’s place on the first-team all-conference team even more impressive, considering how much competition he had.
“There’s 26 or 28 teams, whatever it is, in our conference,” Boeheim said, “so you’ve got to be real good to get in the first five or six. He’s had a tremendous year. He’s had a tremendous career at Syracuse.”
Future stars for the Orangemen should have a shot at winning Atlantic Coast Conference honors. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are slated to leave the Big East for the ACC.
That would give Boeheim a chance to coach again against Boston College, which left the Big East for the ACC after the 2004-05 season.
“We had great games here in Boston, I mean, really great games up in the little gym,” Boeheim said. “It was a great rivalry, and I’m sure it will be a great rivalry again.”
The ACC announced on Sept. 18 that its council of presidents had unanimously voted to accept Syracuse and Pittsburgh, a move that increases its membership to 14. Syracuse was a charter member of the Big East, which was founded as a basketball conference in 1979.
BORDER CROSSING: Montreal native Kris Joseph is playing in the NCAA East semifinals in the home of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
But he grew up north of the border as a basketball player, not a hockey fan.
Joseph is Syracuse’s leading scorer with 13.7 points per game heading into Thursday night’s meeting with Wisconsin, a perennial hockey powerhouse. And he’s gotten plenty of support from back home.
“The Twitter love has been crazy,” Joseph said, “a lot of love on Twitter from fellow Canadians, and that’s always good to see. I think especially from Montreal where basketball is not the main sport. I think I’m getting a lot of support from home, Toronto and things like that, and it’s just a great feeling that I have my country supporting me.”
Joseph was born and raised near the old Montreal Forum where the Canadiens won most of their 24 Stanley Cups.
A DELICATE DANCE: Sorry seems to be the easiest word these days for Marquette coach Buzz Williams.
Still fielding questions about the little dance he did to the tune of “Country Roads” in front of the student section after a win at West Virginia last month, Williams made it clear, he wants it to go away.
“My dancing career is over,” he said Wednesday, in advance of Marquette’s West Regional game against Florida. “That was unprofessional. I have apologized repeatedly. I was on as many nationally syndicated radio shows as I’ve ever been on in a 48-hour span following my emotional response at West Virginia. I’ve apologized, continue to apologize, will continue to apologize. It was not the appropriate thing to do. It was not the representation that I have been hired to have for Marquette.
“And so,” he said, “I apologize.”
BAD ADVICE: Had it been up to Louisville coach Rick Pitino, he wouldn’t be one game away from facing one of his former players in the West Regional final.
Working on Wall Street after playing for Pitino at Providence, Florida coach Billy Donovan called up his former coach and said he wanted to get back into the game.
Remembering the quiet player who kept to himself and did what he was told, Pitino couldn’t see Donovan becoming a coach and told him so.
“I said, ‘Billy, you’re going to make a lot of money on Wall Street. Stay put. Coaching is not for you,’” Pitino said.
But Donovan was persistent, so Pitino offered him a graduate assistant job at Kentucky, where he was coaching at the time. That launched a career that turned Donovan into a two-time national champion at Florida and one of the most respected coaches in college basketball.
“He’s quite unique, quite special,” Pitino said. “I think he’s one of the premier coaches in our game because he lets the players play. He teaches them. He’s an extremely humble guy, still to this day. He has not changed one iota, except he talks more today than he did back then. He’s one of my favorites of all time.”
The two coaches could meet in Saturday’s West Regional final if Donovan’s Gators get past Marquette and Pitino’s Cardinals beat Michigan State.