Written by 3:00 pm Uncategorized

Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim overcomes adversity, drama to reach 900 wins

There was a time, not all that long ago, when it didn’t appear as though Jim Boeheim would reach No. 900.

Boeheim has been through plenty in the last year or two. He publicly defended his long-time assistant coach Bernie Fine when sexual abuse claims surfaced via an ESPN.com report — and was hammered for his insensitivity regarding the accusers. The Orange departed the league that Boeheim helped build, the Big East, and will enter the ACC next season. Starting center Fab Melo was kicked off the team midway through last season for academic improprieties and a ‘Cuse team that won 34 games and was believed to be a national title contender was knocked off in the Elite Eight. Then throw in point-shaving rumors for good measure and you’ve got a program with no shortage of drama.

Boeheim is Syracuse basketball. He’s been leading the program for 37 seasons and has done an incredible job, winning games in a unique manner. There are no game-day shootarounds, and the vaunted 2-3 zone has been critical to his and the Orange success through the years.

He now joins the exclusive 900-win club along with two of the greatest coaches this sport has ever seen: Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and former Indiana coach Bob Knight. There’s one key difference, though. Boeheim won every single one of his games with the same employer while Krzyzewski and Knight both coached at multiple spots in their careers. Boeheim now sits 36 victories behind Coach K and trails The General by just a pair. Boeheim, though, is a notch below that duo, probably more comfortable in a class with former Arizona coach Lute Olson, who won close to 800 games and also claimed a lone national title.

Boeheim has now won 900 career games after Monday night’s victory against Detroit . It’s an amazing accomplishment that rewards success and longevity, but what has overshadowed Boeheim’s success recently are the off-court issues surrounding the program and the fact he’s only got one national title to his credit. In fact, last season was the first time the Cuse got beyond the Sweet 16 since Carmelo Anthony helped hang the banner in 2003.

There are those who forget that Syracuse struggled in the mid 2000s. There were consecutive first-round NCAA tournament departures, including one in 2006 in which the Orange went 7-9 in Big East play and snuck into the Big Dance. What followed were a pair of NIT tourney appearances — and some were wondering whether Boeheim had lost his fastball. Some around the program were secretly hoping he would step down and allow the energetic Mike Hopkins to take the reins.

However, Boeheim has persevered, through plenty. It looks as though he’s moved past the Fine fiasco, after some were even calling for his firing. After losing four of his top six players from last season’s team that won the Big East regular-season title and was 17-1 in league play, the Cuse are once again national title contenders with a perfect 10-0 mark and a No. 3 overall ranking. Boeheim and his staff continue to recruit at an extremely high level, getting heralded players and also doing an impressive job evaluating kids that flourish in his system.

“I think he wants to stick around and win one more,” said ex-Syracuse guard Dion Waiters, who left after last season. “If he wins another national title, then I think he’d be ready to go.”

Boeheim turned 68 exactly one month ago, and no one quite knows how much longer he’ll wind up coaching. His physical health has certainly held up through the years, unlike that of his friend, ex-UConn coach Jim Calhoun, and it’s the mental side of things that may ultimately determine how much longer he coaches. Hopkins has been announced as Boeheim’s successor, but ask anyone close to Boeheim when he’ll call it quits and you’ll get a different answer.

“Honestly, I don’t think anyone knows,” Hopkins said. “Even him.”

Visited 6 times, 1 visit(s) today