The man who defined what it means to “bleed orange”
It was never out of the question that Jim Boeheim could quietly disappear into the night at the end of his coaching career. He was always a no-nonsense guy who never seemed to care much about the extravagance sometimes thrown at him.
Still, yesterday’s abrupt announcement that Adrian Autry would be taking over as head coach of the Syracuse Orange came as a shock to me. You’d think that even with the recent struggles and infighting, the coach who lived over four decades of dominance wouldn’t get such a cold shoulder on the way out.
There will be a time to analyze whether this was the right move, but not yet. Now I want to try to thank the man who dedicated his life to keep the basketball program strong. And to all the ‘Cuse fans out there, probably unsure of what the future holds – it’s ok to be sad that it’s over. Seriously. This was a level of loyalty to an organization that I doubt any of us will see again in our lifetime.
So when you feel you’ve lamented Jim’s retirement enough, take a few minutes to look back at the defining moments of his journey.
When it all began
It’s true that Coach Boeheim held that title for 47 seasons – but let’s not forget that before taking the head job, Jim also played for and worked as an assistant for the Orangemen. And his signature specs were present even in the black and white days.
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I mention this because none of the incredible accomplishments Jim Boeheim later achieved would have happened had he not successfully made the SU freshman team. Yes, the man who became inseparable from Syracuse basketball first had to earn the trust to put on a uniform, then a jacket alongside Roy Danforth.
Thanks, Jim, for embracing the underdog mentality of this town from the very beginning.
Rise of the Orangemen
Although SU had highly successful regular seasons in Boeheim’s first decade behind the bench, the program’s history of not making a deep run in March continued. That changed with a surprise playoff run in 1987. With Pearl Washington gone after three seasons, not many expected it to be the year the team would bulldoze past the Sweet Sixteen and all the way to the Championship game.
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The ending was… bittersweet. But it gave the city hope again, hope that one day sooner rather than later it would once again be the proud home of a champion.
Thank you, coach, for lifting the program to national heights.
Establishing a legacy
I cannot reflect on Boeheim’s Beste without mentioning the mecca, the big one, NM with his name on it. Just like in 1986-87, there was pressure on SU to succeed, but they were not expected to do so. But unlike the first time, the Orangemen would refuse to lose. Wins piled up on the backs of Carmelo Anthony, Gerry McNamara, Hakim Warrick, Kueth Duany, the Craig Forth/Jeremy McNeil split at Center, and of course the man in the suit.
When all was said and done in the Championship game, it was a buzzer blocker rather than a buzzer beater that won the day for the ‘Cuse – earning the program its long-awaited ring.
Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images
Thank you, Champion, for persevering for years to bring Syracuse together, on and off the field.
Being able to coach your son at the highest level of college basketball must have been a surreal experience. It was apparently so nice that Jim did it twice – bringing in his oldest son Jimmy to Buddy during their last college season. The W/L column will forever be a faint black eye on an otherwise incredible story, but that shouldn’t take away from the joy of spending the tortuous years of a career closer to family.
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Thank you, Legend, for allowing you to enjoy yourself along the way.
Cemented in history
35 NCAA Tournament appearances. Five Final Fours. From Unranked to National Champs.
Basketball Hall(s) of Fame. The Jim Boeheim Court. The ring of honor.
Every single thing listed here has been earned and then some.
Thank you, James Arthur Boeheim Jr., for all you have done, and will continue to do, for Syracuse – “The Greatest Place to Live.”
Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images