The idea of playing at the Garden came not from Rutgers, but from the Big Ten Conference, which wants to expand its presence in the country’s biggest media market. That was, after all, the premise for inviting Rutgers into the Big Ten more than a decade ago — as if Piscataway were just another leafy suburb across the river.
As basketball coaches are wont to do, Pikiell did not exactly embrace the idea. As he saw it, he wasn’t gaining an experience he called “spectacular” afterward. He was losing a home game at the raucous Jersey Mike’s Arena, which has as formidable a home-court advantage as exists in the Big Ten.
Holloway, a former football player at Stanford, saw the greater benefit from his seat.
“A sports program, if you’re doing it right, can be an amazing thing for the community,” said Holloway, who has been frank enough to acknowledge that the Rutgers athletic program, which is perpetually in the red, will probably never be self-sustaining. “This puts our name out there.”
Rutgers’s board of governors followed along this month by approving a contract extension for Pikiell, a former UConn guard who spent a decade coaching at Stony Brook before he was hired in 2016.
“We want Steve to know Rutgers is the place we want him to be,” Pat Hobbs, the Rutgers athletic director, said of the extension.
The board’s approval comes shortly after Rutgers handed top-ranked Purdue what until Saturday night was its only loss and the Knights received a commitment from Airious Bailey, a forward from Georgia who is among the top prospects in the class of 2024. Rutgers is also hopeful of landing another elite recruit from that class, Dylan Harper, the younger brother of Ron Harper Jr., who finished at Rutgers last season.
The elder Harper was among a group who in 2021 lifted the Scarlet Knights to the N.C.A.A. tournament for the first time in 30 years. Among the few holdovers from that team is Caleb McConnell, a sinewy 6-foot-7 guard from Jacksonville, Fla., who wasn’t anybody’s idea of a blue chipper when he arrived.