Jim Boeheim is about to coach his 39th season with the Syracuse Orange and we all have grown accustomed to his nose-picking and rather stubborn approach that has brought him a lot of success. As the landscape of college basketball is changing in ways it never has, Boeheim seems to be making moves towards changing his ways as well.
When you are the head coach of one of America's top college basketball program for 38 years, there is plenty of time for the country to get to know you and your tendencies pretty well. Heading into his 39th season with the Syracuse Orange, Jim Boeheim is a legend of the game and everybody knows what to expect from him.
He doesn't care if the camera is zoomed in on his face or what the media says about his team. He does what he thinks he has to do to win, and over all of the years that is something that hasn't changed with Boeheim. Here is a look at some of phases and actions that have come and gone over the tenure of Syracuse's Hall of Fame coach.
The shoe that fits most perfectly when describing Boeheim. With all of the change in the game over the years there has been one constant in how he coaches. It is done his way. He says the Orange are gonna play the 2-3 zone every possession, no matter what the situation is that is how they will be playing. He won't go too deep into his bench. If he has a rotation of eight guys and somebody gets injured, then it looks like we will see seven guys (like what we saw this past year when DaJuan Coleman went down with a knee injury). He usually keeps the same starting five all year barring injuries as well. If Boeheim sees something he is having success with, he will stick with it through thick and thin. Stubborn Boeheim is the man that die-hard fans scream at for more than 30 games every year, and that will never change.
Another undeniable thing about Boeheim is that the guy has a lot of swag and always has. Over the years, he changed with the fashion trends. From sporting plaid suits in the '70s and '80s to rocking a cowboy hat and a national title trophy in 2003, the man has never been afraid to impress the camera with his looks, whether they are attractive or not. If i had a dollar for every time that man picked his nose or played with his ear on national television I wouldn't be a poor man, that is for sure. Somebody has to have told him this happens all the time, but he keeps doing it. That is something you have to respect about Boeheim, he doesn't care what people think he just wants to educate kids on and off the court and win basketball games.
Another consistent aspect of this man, his emotions. He rarely smiles or looks to be content. He'll jump up and down, talk to you on the bench, yell at you on the bench and give an occasional awkward fist pump when something out of the ordinary happens (like win a national title or his freshman point guard nailing an improbable buzzer-beater to win in Pittsburgh). As far as angry Boeheim is concerned, the dude isn't afraid to speak his mind. He told ESPN's Andy Katz he thinks he's an idiot and we all have seen the plethora of internet memes from his jacket-flairing tirade against Duke that resulted in his ejection. For the most part he is a subdued gentleman, but if something sets him off you should duck for cover because he will run at you pointing his finger telling you it is bull crap.
All jokes aside, anybody who respects the game of college basketball has to recognize this man for his consistency and success at the helm of Syracuse basketball. He was a player turned coach that has been at the same school for more than 40 years. As a coach, he has won 948 games, which ranks second most among Division I basketball coaches all-time. He evolutionized a defensive strategy with the 2-3 zone. He has won at least 20 games in every season but two, made a Final Four once in each of the past four decades and is in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. We can be mad at him and laugh at him, but at the end of the day we should thank him for all he has done for Syracuse as a basketball program, in the community and the game of college basketball as a whole. We might not ever see anybody accomplish these feats like Boeheim has ever again.
Many people would consider Boeheim as an old school type guy. I can agree with that fairly easily for reasons mostly mentioned before. He doesn't change too often, whether it be strategically or situationally. He has also been very vocal about certain players staying in college as opposed to leaping to the NBA prematurely. But over recent years, there have been some hints that the man may be changing with the times, helping make the Orange national title contenders year in and year out. I call this new phase Modern Boeheim.
Here are a couple of reasons why I think that there is a Modern Boeheim who is working more towards finding highly talented younger players to come in for one or two years and help bring the team to great success. Of the 21 first round picks Syracuse has had, seven of those have been drafted between 2009 and this year. Two were one-and-done, four left after their second season and one was a junior (Wes Johnson, who did only play one year at Syracuse for the record). In the five seasons after Donte Greene was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft, the Orange have their best five-year winning percentage ever of .823, posting the first (.919 in 2012-2013), fourth (.857 in 2009-2010) and seventh (.824 in 2013-2014) best winning percentages in the Boeheim era. They were also a number one seed in the NCAA tournament twice in that span of five seasons compared to just one time for the rest of Boeheim's career. That is no coincidence. A lot of players have left early in that span and they are still winning.
Not factored into those neat stats is the 2003 national title team, which won the school's only championship, with two freshmen starters. One of those two being Carmelo Anthony, the most successful and notable one-and-done to ever don the Orange and Blue.
Coming into 2014-2015, the Orange may have their most talented recruit since Anthony in Chris McCullough, who many already think will leave after one year. They have a guy in Tyler Roberson who didn't play much last year but has potential to be like Jerami Grant, Dion Waiters or Michael Carter-Williams. These guys didn't see much playing time in their first season either but improved mightily in an increased role in their second, resulting in being drafted in the NBA after just two college years. On top of that, the Orange already have four commitments for the Class of 2015 and, if an extra scholarship pops up, three more ESPN top 20 players are considering coming to Syracuse.
I'm not saying Boeheim is completely changing, that would just be false and going back on my stubborn Boeheim phase. There will be guys like C.J. Fair, Rakeem Christmas, Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara that will stay and help lead the team with experience, but it is becoming clearer that young talent is something that Syracuse will continue to value. There are many sides to this interesting figure we call coach Boeheim and while a lot of things will stay the same, there are some changes being made in the program that will make for better teams and more potential of bringing home that second national title we all dream of.
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