Sunday, April 7, 2013
Boeheim plans on being back at Syracuse
ATLANTA -- Next season, Syracuse will go from banging with the bruisers at Georgetown and St. John's to running with the blue bloods on Tobacco Road. One thing that won't change for the Orange: Jim Boeheim will be directing things from the bench.
It took only minutes after Syracuse's loss to Michigan on Saturday night for the 68-year-old Boeheim to field a question that becomes routine for coaches when they become eligible for their Social Security checks. Will he be back?
Prickly as ever, Boeheim insisted he wasn't going anywhere. "As far as I know, I'm 100 percent coaching next year," he said.
Though he concedes all the conference realignment of the past few years has turned his stomach, he also insists Syracuse's move to the Atlantic Coast Conference won't send him into retirement.
For that, the Orange should be glad.
Because more than it was a product of one or two sublime players, this unexpected run to the Final Four came on the back of good coaching, a group of athletes who bought into a system -- in this case, Boeheim's 2-3 zone defense -- improved at it through the season, then hit their peak when March rolled around.
In other words, the opposite of what he got from his 2010 and 2012 teams -- a pair of squads with more potential that were seeded first in the NCAA tournament but flamed out the week before the Final Four after losing their big men (Arinze Onuaku to injury in 2010 and Fab Melo to academic issues in 2012).
"With this team, if we'd lost in the second round, nobody would've been surprised, so this is a great feeling to pull this thing off," said Boeheim, who now has four Final Fours, the 2003 national title and those 920 career victories on his resume. "To get here, it's a great feeling. I've always felt I'm lucky to be coaching where I got to coach and never really gave any thought to coaching anyplace else. I've never liked the other side of the fence."
Next year's team will almost certainly be missing point guard Michael Carter-Williams, a sophomore with first-round NBA potential, and another pro prospect, senior James Southerland. Junior C.J. Fair, who scored 22 points in Saturday's loss, could see his name popping onto some mock draft boards.
But promising underclassmen Rakeem Christmas, Jerami Grant and Trevor Cooney should be coming back. And few coaches keep the talent coming in the way Boeheim does. His recruiting classes have been ranked in the top 10 for three of the last four seasons. And once the players arrive, they tend to stay. Save the rare exception of, say, a Carmelo Anthony, who led Syracuse to its national title in 2003, Boeheim runs the opposite of a "one-and-done" program.
"It's fun to go to Syracuse. Kids who have come here have really liked it," Boeheim said. "We've got a good situation, got good facilities, got a unique building, we were in a great conference and we're going into a great conference."
All the conference realignment that has roiled college sports has been distasteful for Boeheim, though. So much so that Syracuse's move to the ACC has fueled speculation that the coach might have had enough.
He didn't like that line of questioning Saturday night after a 61-56 loss to Michigan, during which the Wolverines did just enough deciphering of the 2-3 zone to send the Orange home. Louisville coach Rick Pitino has an idea why.
"It wasn't the fact that he was upset that you were asking whether he'd step down," the 60-year-old Pitino said. "What you're basically telling him is, `You're getting old.' You're reminding him of that. Inside, that's what bothers us because we all want to be Peter Pan and stay young."
Boeheim, meanwhile, says that, yes, he feels intense loyalty to the Big East, the conference that started with seven northeastern teams in 1979 and was bound together with the promise of short road trips, member schools with a lot in common and a focus on basketball in a football-centric college landscape.
Those days are long gone. The soon-to-be-disbanded Big East has 16 teams. Boeheim has no problem leaving that for the ACC, which will have Big East members Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and, eventually, Louisville, along with North Carolina, Duke and Miami -- a one-time Big East school that moved a few years ago.
"The ACC has absolutely zero input into whether I would not coach next year," Boeheim said. "The only reason that I would not coach next year is because I didn't feel I could do a good job or wanted to do it, and I have no feeling at all now that that will be the case."