The Downside of JB | Syracusefan.com

The Downside of JB

SWC75

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(This is my update of a post I first made in 2011 and updated in 2014:
The Downside of JB My 2023 writing is in italics.)


- For all the success, it just seems we should be at least a little better than we are. This is the ideal situation for a college basketball program. There is no direct competition from pro sports or even from another top college program in the same state. It’s a small city, (but still a city) that knows SU basketball is what puts it on the map. We buy 20,000+ season tickets a year and can still put 30,000 in the stands for most games, (we AVERAGED 29,918 fans for the 1989-90 season). Nobody can top the fan support the team gets here, (even if it’s not always as vocal as it should be). While Central New York is not a rich source of talent, the ‘Cuse is within range of many hotbeds of talent and has established many pipelines to top schools. We’ve also proven to be a national recruiter when we want somebody. So why don’t we look at the McDonald’s All-America game and see at least 2-3 SU recruits every year? North Carolina one year recruited four five star players, (per Scout), the #1 point guard, the #1 shooting guard and the #1 power forward in the country. Why don’t we get classes like that?
(Update: Now we’d like to be a lot better than we are. We no longer have 20,000 season ticket holders or draw crowds of 30,000+. The celebration of the 20th anniversary of the national championship drew a crowd of 24,000 when it would have bene 34,000 nine years ago. I’m at the end of a row in section 308 and counted 16 empty seats to my left. In the old days, I’d have to fight to stay on my seat. And most of our recruits of recent years have been rated in the second or third 100, although we could potentially have three top 50 guys in our line-up next year – Benny Williams, Judah Mintz and JJ Starling. It would be the first time in a decade we could do that.)

- Jim Boeheim holds the NCAA record for 20 win seasons. Back when teams played less than 30 games a year, that was the standard of excellence. But these days, teams play 30+ games a year and winning 20 is still good but, not by itself, excellent. Now it’s about 30 win seasons. Rick Pitino has 8 in 26 years. John Calipari has 8 in 22 years. Roy Williams has 8 in 25 years. Jim Calhoun, who once had a six year stretch at Northeastern during which he went 74-75, has eight 30 win seasons. Mike Krzyzewski has thirteen 30 win years. In 38 years, Jim Boeheim has 6 thirty win teams. He’s catching up with three in the last five years. He’s also approaching retirement. We are very good at being good but not really great at being great.
(Update: we’ve had three more 20 win seasons in the last 9 years but no more than 23 wins in any of them. Roy Williams now has ten 30 win seasons. Calipari has 11. Coach K has 16.)

- Final Fours: We’ve been to five, four in the JB era, once a decade. Duke has been to 13 Final Fours in that time, including seven in nine years from 1986-94. North Carolina has been to 12, including two in a row three different times. Kentucky has been to 8, including three in a row. Kansas, Louisville and Michigan State have been to 7 of them. The Spartans had a run of three in a row, as did UCLA, who has 5 Final Fours in the Boeheim Era. The more you can get to the Final four, the greater your chances of winning multiple national championships, which is our goal now. In fact, it’s become nearly as great an obsession to some as winning the first one was.
(We‘ve now been to Final Four #6. Duke and UNC now have 15 in the JB era, Kansas and Kentucky 9, Kansas 16 and Michigan State 10 Louisville is stuck at 7. The fact that I was talking about Final Fours and national titles nine years ago shows how our perspective has changed since then.)

- In 2011 Jim Calhoun won his third national championship, tying him with Bobby Knight. Mike Krzyzewski has four, as does Rupp. Branch McCracken, Hank Iba, Phil Woolpert, Ed Jucker, Denny Crum, Dean Smith, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan have two. Are they all better coaches than Jim Boeheim? Jimmy is tied with Howard Hobson, Bud Foster, John Bunn, Everett Shelton, Vadal Peterson, Doggie Julian, Nat Holman, Phog Allen, Ken Loeffler, Frank McGuire, Pete Newell, Fred Taylor, Don Haskins, Norm Sloan, Al McGuire, Joe B. Hall, Jud Heathcote, Jim Valvano, John Thompson II, Rollie Massimino, Larry Brown, Steve Fisher, Jerry Tarkanian, Nolan Richardson, Jim Harrick, Lute Olson, Tubby Smith, Tom Izzo, Gary Williams, Bill Self and John Calipari. That’s not a bad group but it’s time to move up in class.
(Update: Coach K has 5 nattys and Roy Williams 3. Jay Wright got his first two and Bill Self his second. Here’s what was really starting to bother SU fans nine years ago: Since we won our first title in 2003, our old rivals, the Connecticut Huskies have won #2,3 and 4 and may win #5 this year. North Carolina has won #4, 5 and 6. Florida won their first two, Duke won #4 and 5, Kentucky #8, Louisville #3, Villanova #2 and 3 and Kansas #3. Not only are we still stuck on #1 but we are just hopeful of getting back into the tournament someday.)

- I mentioned we’ve had 14 Top Ten teams under Jim Boeheim. That’s very good but other teams have had more. Duke has had 24 top ten teams in the same period. North Carolina has 23, Kentucky 22, and Kansas 21. Are those schools really better positioned to attract talent than we are? The probation probably hurt us in that regard but those schools have had their down periods, too.
(Update: These last nine years, the final poll before the NCAA has produced NO votes for Syracuse to be in the Top 25. We were #10 in the poll after the tournament in 2016 after our Final Four run – where we got crushed by North Carolina because we were the worst team there and #25 after making the Sweet 16 two years ago but that’s been it as far as SU in the rankings for nearly a decade. So we now have 15 but Duke, in the JB Era, has 29, Kentucky and Kansas 27 and North Carolina 26).

- SU owns all the Big East records for total wins in the regular season and the BET and almost anything else you want to compute over 34 years. But we’ve never really been the dominant team in our own conference. Georgetown was the dominant team in the 80’s with 4 regular season titles and 6 BET titles and a 19-8 record against us. SU won 3 regular season titles and 2 BET titles but they were clearly behind the Hoyas for the decade. And just as soon as we overcame them, here came Jim Calhoun’s Huskies, who have won 9 regular season titles and 6 BET titles to our 5 and 3 and who have a 24-18 record against us in that time. Our record in BET finals against the Hoyas and Huskies is 1-8. And in recent years we’ve had a big problem with the Pitt Panthers, who won 13 of their 16 against us, and Louisville who won 7 in a row. Nobody should be able to beat us that often. The tough, physical teams seem to intimidate SU. Since I wrote this item in 2011 we have now moved onto the ACC, where I think our position will be one of a contender, rather than a dominant team. I just hope that there isn’t a dominant team. Off the historical record, I don’t think it would be us.
(Correct, Steve. Our Big East record is closed. In the ACC, we’ve finished 2nd, 8th, 9th, 7th, 10th, 6th, 6th, 8th, 9th and 8th: basketball purgatory. We’ve gone from a non-dominant perennial contender to a middle of the pack team.)

- Part of SU’s problem is the strange inability to achieve multiple goals in the same season. We’ve gotten at least a share of the Big East Regular season title in 1980, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2010 and 2012. We’ve won the BET in 1981, 1988, 1992, 2005 and 2006. We’ve gone to the final four in 1987, 1996, 2003 and 2013. The only years we did two of those things were 1987 and 2003 and in both cases we just shared the regular season title, lost in the BET and then went to the final four. In neither case were we favored to go that far. The only SU teams to be a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament were the 1980, 2010 and 2012 teams. The first two were 30 years apart and both of which lost in the Sweet 16. The 2012 team lost in the Elite 8.
(Now we can’t seem to achieve any of them. We’ve never won the ACC regular season title, never won more than one game in the conference tournament and fallen off of the NCAA bubble. We’ve been to one more Final Four but that was seven years ago and we were the worst team there.)

- That list of 27 All-Americans contains one player who really made it big in the NBA: Carmelo Anthony. Pearl Washington was a famous flop. Sherman Douglas and Billy Owens got off to decent starts but then faded. Derrick Coleman became a star but then had his career ruined by injuries. Rony Seikaly was a good, second tier center for a long time and Danny Schayes was a decent back-up center for even a longer time. The others were reserves at best or played most of their careers abroad. When we look at an NBA All-Star game, why don’t we see 1-2 SU alums there? I don’t think any of those 27 All-Americans has ever played on an NBA championship team and they’ve made very few appearances in the All-Star game. (One of the reasons why I can’t get into the NBA is the lack of a “Cuse” factor, whereas the NFL always has numerous prominent SU alums, despite the lesser success of the football program). Shouldn’t the level of talent flowing through the Carrier Dome be at least the equal of any college basketball venue?
(Update: Our best NBA player is now Jeremy Grant. He’s having a good career, currently averaging 20.5 points 4.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and a steal and a block per game for a 32-41 Portland team. The last SU player to play in the NBA finals was Marty Byrnes in 1980, (he played one minute). Nobody who ever played for us in the Carrier Dome has played in an NBA Finals game. We finally got a Boeheim player on the roster of a team that made the finals. Two of them in fact, although it was the same player. Dion Waiters played for both the Miami Heat and the LA Lakers in 2020 and actually got a player’s share from the Lakers. But he was hurt and didn’t actually play in a finals game. And he hasn’t played since. Where is the ‘Cuse’ factor?)

- On the flip side, there is the stain of probation on JB’s record. We all know the details. Alexander Wolff and Armen Keteyian wrote a book called “Raw Recruits” and focused a chapter on a “street agent” named Rob Johnson who had relationships with a number of schools and coaches but primarily with Syracuse at the time the book was written him. It was never pinned down that he did anything illegal but it caused the local paper to do an investigation of the SU program that bordered on the comic. But that relationship with Johnson convinced the NCAA that SU was guilty of “a lack of institutional control” and they gave us a relatively soft penalty, (missing the NCAA tourney for a year and losing a couple of scholarships). It’s likely everybody was using street agents at the time just because they got to the talent before the coaches did. Later the key thing was to develop a relationship with an AAU coach, or even hire them to be on your coaching staff. It’s no accident that SU’s recruiting perked up when Troy Weaver, with his AAU connections was added to the staff. We also suddenly developed a pipeline to Oak Hill, the top high school program in the country and Notre Dame Prep, the top prep school. That’s nice but you wonder what goes on there. There’s always something going on because basketball talent is a market like anything else and people are always finding ways to broker it. A successful coach has to deal with such people. Whoever succeeds JB will have to as well.
(Update: We got bitten by the probation bug again, a quarter century after the first one. Phil Mushnick demanded Jim be fired for being a ‘serial cheater’. The new allegations involved not applying maximum penalties under the school’s drug policy to athletes – a couple of guys had smoked some weed - a YMCA employee not making sure that players completed their assignments and using them for other duties and giving them transportation and footnotes being added to a term paper for a player for whom English was a second language. Meanwhile UNC was having their players pretend to learn Swahili and Louisville was giving them prostitutes. Each probation hits you three ways the investigation, which produces bad publicity, the actual sanctions which limit scholarships and recruiting and the aftermath, during which schools will walk on eggshells to avoid any mistakes lest they get punished even more. It can knock a program back for a decade.)

- One of JB’s albatrosses was that low graduation rate SU had when those stats first started getting published. Again, we know all the arguments. It was a small sample, (compared to what you’d get with a football team). It counted transfers and guys who jumped to the NBA as if they were academic casualties. It’s more difficult for basketball players to defer their studies for the “other” semester because the season is part of two semesters. The numbers have improved since the study. Still it wasn’t a very good advertisement for the program.
(Update: I’ve not heard anything bad about our grad rate in years.)

- Mason, (a couple of years ago), mentioned that he hears comments at the basketball related events he attends that SU has a reputation as a place that recruits problem players. And we have had some problems. DeShaun Williams, Billy Edelin, Louie McCroskey. Paul Harris has a history as well. Then we had Scoop Jardine’s relatives. Then came Eric Devendorf’s confrontations. I’m not sure that the primary complaint is that SU or JB have mishandled the situations players like these have created. It’s just that they happened. We wait with bated breath each year to see who might be suspended. It’s sort of laudable that JB sticks with guys as much as he can. Nobody can say these players weren’t given a chance to straighten out and they have been disciplined multiple times. We have rules here. There hasn’t been anything like laptopgate and JB hasn’t turned into Jerry Tarkanian, recruiting drug pushers and samurai swordsmen to win games. Do we really want a reputation as a school that never takes a chance on a kid? Still, you wonder when something worse than we’ve had to deal with so far might happen.
(Update: I haven’t heard much of this kind of complaint in quite a while, either. And Eric Devendorf has become a model citizen.)


- We so often seem to lack a “killer” instinct. We rarely seem to play 40 minutes with equal intensity, often play down to the level of our opponents and JB sees a lead as a cushion to be used to drain the clock, often going into a slow-down with several minutes to go in a game and depending on his players to make the smart plays needed to seal the win. To me a good lead is an opportunity to get a bigger lead and then send in the reserves to get them playing time. Rick Pitino said that you get 13 scholarships so you might as well use them. He likes to wear down the opposition and develop players. JB prefers to stick with his best guys. Both have been successful but I sometimes wonder what we‘d be like with a Pitino-like approach.
(Update: Our tendency recently has been to get off to bad starts and having to dig ourselves out of a hole, both in game and in the season. Complaints about the slow-down have lessened as we’ve have fewer big leads at the end of games. But on the “Upside” I listed some stats on close games. JB had won 63% of them in his first 38 years, 53% in the last nine.)

- I remember thinking in the 90’s that we were blessed with successful football and basketball programs but I wonder what the Dome might be like with a Steve Spurrier as the football coach, filling the air with footballs and using a Bob Stoops attack defense and then a Rick Pitino type as the basketball coach, pressing for forty minutes and reigning threes on the opposition. The place would be rocking for 6 months and top-level talent would want to come here to play that style of ball. Instead, we became known for conservative offensive and defensive schemes in football and had success for a time but the talent level declined and we suffered a collapse that we are now trying to recover from. In basketball, we used to be an exciting, fast breaking team, the college version of the Laker’s “showtime”. Boeheim subsequently became famous for his zone defense, which can be very effective but which slows down the game, (per Sports Illustrated, opposing teams this year took an average of 21 seconds per possession against us, the highest in the nation). Jim played on a team that pressed for 40 minutes and scored 99 points a game but he doesn’t believe in the strategy himself. When asked why he allows the other team to dictate the pace, he said that there’s not much you can do about it. We didn’t do anything to create scoring opportunities beyond just running our normal offense. As a result we played nothing but close games and an injury or shooting slump turned us from a team that started 25-0 into a 3-6 team because there just wasn’t that much difference between our wins and losses. I’ve always thought one of the hallmarks of a great team is their ability to impose their will on the other team. Instead we allow the other team to make it the type of game they want and try to beat them at that their game.
(It’s not just that we have lost more games than we were used to in the last nine years. It’s so many of them were ugly, grind it out games. Frequently, the other team would have more fast break points than we did in the final box score. We had abandoned the notion of passing the ball downcourt to beat the other team’s defense to the basket or pressuring them on defense to get break-away steals. The “Syracuse Dunk Tape” shows what Syracuse basketball used to look like: “But look at the athletes we had back then!” We had those athletes because we played that way.)

- The teams that have had the most success against us have been the teams that bullied us. JB’s teams tend to be old-fashioned basketball teams that like to run the court and make moves and display their skills, (although the defensive conservatism causes us to get mired in half court games far too much). The increasing trend has been for players to add more muscle and play the game as if it were hockey or football, concentrating on aggressive defensive tactics and preventing the other team from playing their game. We occasionally have beaten teams like the old Georgetown teams, Calhoun’s Connecticut teams or the Pitt teams of this decade, but more often they beat us and often do it decisively. When we win it’s when they come down to our level and we make the plays to win a close one at the end. But we don’t beat those teams when they are at their best. They remain the “boss squirrels”. I don’t care for this trend toward physical basketball, (basketball should be a display of skills, not of muscles), but if that’s what teams are doing to beat us, we’ve got to match them, both in strength and attitude. Since I wrote this in 2011 we’ve moved to the ACC and the NCAA is cracking down on bullying tactics, where were much less in evidence this year.
(Update: I haven’t seen anybody in the ACC who plays like Georgetown, UCONN and Pitt used to but defense on the whole is more physical than it used to be and we always seem to be the skinniest guys on the beach.)

- One false criticism that you hear a lot is that JB doesn’t play enough guys and that the team collapses at the end of the seasons because of this. I’ve made a post called “All’s Well That Ends Well” looking at each year of the Boeheim Era and not finding a trend of end of season collapses. There were slumps, usually in January or February. Some teams were just never good. Our best teams avoided slumps. Virtually every coach plays everybody in November and December and goes with his most consistent contributors and his best combinations after that. The post season is about your starting line-up. The NCAA is two games a week. I kept track of the number of players who have averaged 10 minutes a game since 1982-83, the first year for which the stats are available. Three teams have had ten such players, (including the one two years ago). Four have had 9 such players, (including last year). 16 have had 8 such players, (including this year, counting Coleman who averaged that much before he was hurt). Seven had had 7 such players. One team had only six players average 10 minutes a game- the 1997-98 team, which went 26-9 and lost in the sweet 16. They won 6 of their last 8 games, losing only to Connecticut in the BET final and Duke. In those 32 seasons we’ve had 34 players average 35 minutes a game, (some of them the same player in different years). Two teams had three such players- 2000-1 and 2008-9. They went 25-9 and 28-10, respectively, hardly our worst. In 2001 we won 5 of our last 7 , the Shumpert eye-poke game to Pitt in the BET and the blow-out to Kansas, which was all about rebounding. The 2009 team won 9 of their last 11, including the 6OT game. We lost to Louisville in the BET final and to Blake Griffin and Oklahoma in the NCAAs. Eight teams have had two 35 minute players and twelve had had one. Ten teams have had no 35 minute players. As JB said, the players determine who will play. If 9-10 guys can help us, he’ll use 9-10 guys. If it’s 6-7 guys, that what he uses.
(Update: still basically true. This year, Jim had 8 guys average 10 minutes a game. A couple others averaged 9.2 but didn’t play in all games. Nobody averaged 35 minutes a game. But it’s because Jim was searching all year for the right combination. It’s interesting that Jim is 19-9 all-time against Leonard Hamilton, who famously sends players in waves trying to wear you down. Jim preferred to go with his best guys against Leonard’s 2nd or third team.)

- Jim has been accused of strategic intransigence and in recent years, I think that’s been a valid criticism. He made the decision in 2009 to go strictly with a zone, (which can be played aggressively and has many variations) and it worked: we had six fabulous years. We’ve also pulled off some shockers in the NCAA tournament using the zone, giving Jim the reputation of some kind of defensive savant. But teams that played us a lot learned how to attack the zone, putting a versatile player in the middle of it and running the offense through him and ceased to be mesmerized by it. Now we are in the Steph Curry Era, where young players want to hit threes more than make Michael Jordan dunks. Three point percentages actually haven’t changed much but more players are taking them and the sheer number of attempts, (often taken from father out), can overwhelm the percentages and force the defense to extend itself to cover all the bombs, which opens holes in a zone. Where the shooting percentages go up is inside, where the center often winds up covering both posts and both corners, something Bill Russell couldn’t do. To attempt it, we’ve gone to skinny big men who can cover territory but who can be pushed around by bigger, thicker men. Our defense has gotten worse and worse. We can still score but it's tough trying to outscore teams you can’t stop. Yet Jim has refused to go back to using the man for man, arguing that it takes too much practice time and saying that his team just isn’t any good at it. In the Georgia Tech debacle in the dome, he actually switched the team into it in the second half. We got some stops in a game where a poor team put up 96 points and the crowd cheered. But Jim refused to give the defense any credit after the game.

- On thing this year’s team was good at was pressing. We had the athletes and the shot blockers behind it. But announced as he has done annually for years that “this isn’t one of our better pressing teams. Yet it seemed to turn the game in our favor every time we used it. We were not a good jump shooting team and had trouble trying to win half court games. It would have been the prefect year to regularly use defensive pressure but Jim only went to it if we were way down. When we did make comebacks, he grudgingly acknowledged that it “helped a little’. He claimed that if we used it much, our centers would foul out - but they didn’t. He pointed out that “very few teams use the press these days”. Maybe, but how many teams use the zone as their base defense? Being different isn’t a bad thing. It makes you hard to prepare for. But one thing is surely true: if your coach doesn’t believe in a strategy, you’re going to have a hard time making it work.

- Offensively, Jim was influenced by Mike D’Antoni, an NBA coach with whom he worked in the Olympics. A decade ago, we destroyed a #1 seeded Indiana team on the way to the Final Four with isolation drives to the basket and the pick—and-roll game. It’s been basic to our offense since then. But again, teams get used to what you are doing and in recent years, these 20 foot drives to the basket have tended to get tangled up in the defense. We wind up taking low percentage shots and trying to get fouled. Other teams kill us with penetration and dishes to the baseline or to three point shooters, who already squared to the basket when they receive the ball, can be deadly. We rarely do that. Our drivers are focused only on their own shot and when we get a three pointer, either the shooter has to create the shot himself or turn to get a pass from the perimeter, then turn back to reset and shoot the ball, a lower percentage shot. In 2022, the year we finally had a losing record, Jim had filled the roster, not just with relatives but more importantly with jump shooters. Yet the opposition hit more three pointers than we did and those jump shooters kept trying to drive to the basket as if they were Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche. The feeling grew and grew in recent years that Jim’s refusal to alter tactics to his talent and game situations was holding us back and fewer and fewer people argued against this view. We’ll see how much things change in the Red Autry era. (Red recently promised a prospect that man-to-man will be our base defense, which would be quite a change and shows that Red isn’t bound to JB’s strategies.)

- Jim’s age and energy level were held against him. A photo was circulated showing Jim asleep before a high school game, suggesting that he was not up to recruiting any more. It was taken in 2013, when there were few complaints about our recruiting. There were also complaints when Jim recruited his sons to play for him but they were good players. There were complaints the last few years that Jim didn’t go out on the road at all to recruit but let his assistants do that. But he’s explained that the assistants do most of the player evaluation and early recruiting anyway and that the head coach’s role is to be the ‘closer. Still, there’s no doubt that our recruiting has seriously declined, probably from a combination of Jim’s age and the fan discontent, which leads prospects to wonder who will be coaching them when they get here. Nonetheless, he did manage to recruit a pretty good looking 6 man class last year and we were already starting to put together another one for 2024 when Jim retired.

- The thing is, what sense does it make to recruit a 6 man class, (and basically skip the next year), in this era of the portal where you can lose many of your players for any reason they want. The successful teams this year have been built though the portal, giving them veteran line ups, some of them as old as some NBA teams. Jim opted to build the team the old fashioned way. I asked him why on his show, but he really didn’t answer the question: “We couldn’t bring in transfers because we had these guys, (the 6 frosh). People are still bringing in freshmen. It was the fall of the year before last. We had planned to get 4-5 freshmen and bring in somebody from the portal. But we got 6 guys and two players at each position. Guys are only going to leave the portal for a starting job and we didn’t have one. It’s risky to wait and try to get 4-5 guys from the portal. Ideally you want 2-3 freshmen and 1-2 portal guys. It’s very dangerous to wait until spring. Teams that did that did it because they had no choice.” I think they did it because it’s the better way to build a team these days. Our young players seemed over-matched much of the seasons. We now have to wait for them to mature. Fortunately, the internal promotion seems to have helped as the only defection form the frosh has been Judah Mintz’ declaration for the draft, which doesn’t have to be his final decision.

- Then there’s Jim demeanor, which he admits, has always had a grouchy side but which flared up more and more as the discontent increased and he felt the end to defend himself. I’ve never understood the point of “throwing a player under the bus” in his news conferences because they would have occurred after he addressed the team and talked personally with anyone he had a complaint with. More worrisome was the fact that, whatever happened, Jim felt the need to defend his recent record, resulting in his apparent acceptance of 19-14 records and unranked teams as normal for Syracuse basketball, which is should not be.



- He’s 69 and has been here for 38 years. Whatever it is, it’s not going to change. Whatever you think, you’re still going to think it when he finally heads for the golf course for good.
(Well now he’s 78 and it’s over. Now we’ll have to complain about somebody else.)
 
One of the most thorough, incisive breakdowns of the SU program that I've ever read. Kudos.

The comment that stuck with me;
"We're very good at being good, but not great at being great ".
That reads like an epitaph to the Jim Boeheim era. We broke through a number of times, were the most consistently good program in the BE and even nationally, but rarely did we reach the mountaintop.

I think that can be updated to we're very good at being medicocre, since we've won enough to keep things interesting, but all our wins were vs bad or mediocre teams, like the BC's of the world.

Let's see where we go from here.
 
The reason why we had a no recruit year is the same reason that we have mostly lower ranked recruits. We have been putting out more offers than ever and we are getting rejected more often than ever before. Cuse in the ACC is a fish out of water.
 
The reason why we had a no recruit year is the same reason that we have mostly lower ranked recruits. We have been putting out more offers than ever and we are getting rejected more often than ever before. Cuse in the ACC is a fish out of water.

Not many teams have joined a conference not based in their area of the country and prospered. (Somebody tell the Trojans and the Bruins.)
 
A matter of priorities. They will benefit financially. Their premier teams will have difficulty recruiting. Athletic director number one priority is the budget. Winning football and basketball is secondary. Non-revenue sports are also a high priority as they provide opportunity for many.
 
I don’t know who deserves more praise - you for all this meticulous documentation and analysis or me for reading it. I’d love to hear JB respond to it to be honest
 
I don’t know who deserves more praise - you for all this meticulous documentation and analysis or me for reading it. I’d love to hear JB respond to it to be honest

A tie.

JB: "But we went to the Final Four seven years ago and two Sweet 16s since!"

If Red goes to one Final Four and two Sweet 16s in the next seven years, will that be enough?
 
That’s a tough question to answer. Are we in the tournament all those years? If so I say probably yes.

I became a SU basketball fan by listening on the radio in the 80s. Those were exciting teams and, as you pointed out, likely a result of no zone defense. Hopefully this is a more high scoring team this year, it will look positively old school if Mintz returns
 
Thank you for your thorough job as always!!

While things always could have been better, it's hard to argue that we have had a very entertaining program to be a fan of during the JB years. Some truly great players, consistently competitive and entertaining teams, an amazing and uniqure atmosphere in which to watch a game and a coach who is a contributor and true and loyal part of the local community.

I still remember my elementary school principal taking us to one of JB's "open" practices at Manley Field House more than 40 years ago. And I still have some of the autographs to this day.
 
Not many teams have joined a conference not based in their area of the country and prospered. (Somebody tell the Trojans and the Bruins.)
The ACC is an East Coast conference, runs from Boston to Florida, and we are on the East Coast.
 
The ACC is an East Coast conference, runs from Boston to Florida, and we are on the East Coast.

But most of the teams are in the south, not the northeast.
 
(This is my update of a post I first made in 2011 and updated in 2014:
The Downside of JB My 2023 writing is in italics.)

- For all the success, it just seems we should be at least a little better than we are. This is the ideal situation for a college basketball program. There is no direct competition from pro sports or even from another top college program in the same state. It’s a small city, (but still a city) that knows SU basketball is what puts it on the map. We buy 20,000+ season tickets a year and can still put 30,000 in the stands for most games, (we AVERAGED 29,918 fans for the 1989-90 season). Nobody can top the fan support the team gets here, (even if it’s not always as vocal as it should be). While Central New York is not a rich source of talent, the ‘Cuse is within range of many hotbeds of talent and has established many pipelines to top schools. We’ve also proven to be a national recruiter when we want somebody. So why don’t we look at the McDonald’s All-America game and see at least 2-3 SU recruits every year? North Carolina one year recruited four five star players, (per Scout), the #1 point guard, the #1 shooting guard and the #1 power forward in the country. Why don’t we get classes like that?
(Update: Now we’d like to be a lot better than we are. We no longer have 20,000 season ticket holders or draw crowds of 30,000+. The celebration of the 20th anniversary of the national championship drew a crowd of 24,000 when it would have bene 34,000 nine years ago. I’m at the end of a row in section 308 and counted 16 empty seats to my left. In the old days, I’d have to fight to stay on my seat. And most of our recruits of recent years have been rated in the second or third 100, although we could potentially have three top 50 guys in our line-up next year – Benny Williams, Judah Mintz and JJ Starling. It would be the first time in a decade we could do that.)

- Jim Boeheim holds the NCAA record for 20 win seasons. Back when teams played less than 30 games a year, that was the standard of excellence. But these days, teams play 30+ games a year and winning 20 is still good but, not by itself, excellent. Now it’s about 30 win seasons. Rick Pitino has 8 in 26 years. John Calipari has 8 in 22 years. Roy Williams has 8 in 25 years. Jim Calhoun, who once had a six year stretch at Northeastern during which he went 74-75, has eight 30 win seasons. Mike Krzyzewski has thirteen 30 win years. In 38 years, Jim Boeheim has 6 thirty win teams. He’s catching up with three in the last five years. He’s also approaching retirement. We are very good at being good but not really great at being great.
(Update: we’ve had three more 20 win seasons in the last 9 years but no more than 23 wins in any of them. Roy Williams now has ten 30 win seasons. Calipari has 11. Coach K has 16.)

- Final Fours: We’ve been to five, four in the JB era, once a decade. Duke has been to 13 Final Fours in that time, including seven in nine years from 1986-94. North Carolina has been to 12, including two in a row three different times. Kentucky has been to 8, including three in a row. Kansas, Louisville and Michigan State have been to 7 of them. The Spartans had a run of three in a row, as did UCLA, who has 5 Final Fours in the Boeheim Era. The more you can get to the Final four, the greater your chances of winning multiple national championships, which is our goal now. In fact, it’s become nearly as great an obsession to some as winning the first one was.
(We‘ve now been to Final Four #6. Duke and UNC now have 15 in the JB era, Kansas and Kentucky 9, Kansas 16 and Michigan State 10 Louisville is stuck at 7. The fact that I was talking about Final Fours and national titles nine years ago shows how our perspective has changed since then.)

- In 2011 Jim Calhoun won his third national championship, tying him with Bobby Knight. Mike Krzyzewski has four, as does Rupp. Branch McCracken, Hank Iba, Phil Woolpert, Ed Jucker, Denny Crum, Dean Smith, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan have two. Are they all better coaches than Jim Boeheim? Jimmy is tied with Howard Hobson, Bud Foster, John Bunn, Everett Shelton, Vadal Peterson, Doggie Julian, Nat Holman, Phog Allen, Ken Loeffler, Frank McGuire, Pete Newell, Fred Taylor, Don Haskins, Norm Sloan, Al McGuire, Joe B. Hall, Jud Heathcote, Jim Valvano, John Thompson II, Rollie Massimino, Larry Brown, Steve Fisher, Jerry Tarkanian, Nolan Richardson, Jim Harrick, Lute Olson, Tubby Smith, Tom Izzo, Gary Williams, Bill Self and John Calipari. That’s not a bad group but it’s time to move up in class.
(Update: Coach K has 5 nattys and Roy Williams 3. Jay Wright got his first two and Bill Self his second. Here’s what was really starting to bother SU fans nine years ago: Since we won our first title in 2003, our old rivals, the Connecticut Huskies have won #2,3 and 4 and may win #5 this year. North Carolina has won #4, 5 and 6. Florida won their first two, Duke won #4 and 5, Kentucky #8, Louisville #3, Villanova #2 and 3 and Kansas #3. Not only are we still stuck on #1 but we are just hopeful of getting back into the tournament someday.)

- I mentioned we’ve had 14 Top Ten teams under Jim Boeheim. That’s very good but other teams have had more. Duke has had 24 top ten teams in the same period. North Carolina has 23, Kentucky 22, and Kansas 21. Are those schools really better positioned to attract talent than we are? The probation probably hurt us in that regard but those schools have had their down periods, too.
(Update: These last nine years, the final poll before the NCAA has produced NO votes for Syracuse to be in the Top 25. We were #10 in the poll after the tournament in 2016 after our Final Four run – where we got crushed by North Carolina because we were the worst team there and #25 after making the Sweet 16 two years ago but that’s been it as far as SU in the rankings for nearly a decade. So we now have 15 but Duke, in the JB Era, has 29, Kentucky and Kansas 27 and North Carolina 26).

- SU owns all the Big East records for total wins in the regular season and the BET and almost anything else you want to compute over 34 years. But we’ve never really been the dominant team in our own conference. Georgetown was the dominant team in the 80’s with 4 regular season titles and 6 BET titles and a 19-8 record against us. SU won 3 regular season titles and 2 BET titles but they were clearly behind the Hoyas for the decade. And just as soon as we overcame them, here came Jim Calhoun’s Huskies, who have won 9 regular season titles and 6 BET titles to our 5 and 3 and who have a 24-18 record against us in that time. Our record in BET finals against the Hoyas and Huskies is 1-8. And in recent years we’ve had a big problem with the Pitt Panthers, who won 13 of their 16 against us, and Louisville who won 7 in a row. Nobody should be able to beat us that often. The tough, physical teams seem to intimidate SU. Since I wrote this item in 2011 we have now moved onto the ACC, where I think our position will be one of a contender, rather than a dominant team. I just hope that there isn’t a dominant team. Off the historical record, I don’t think it would be us.
(Correct, Steve. Our Big East record is closed. In the ACC, we’ve finished 2nd, 8th, 9th, 7th, 10th, 6th, 6th, 8th, 9th and 8th: basketball purgatory. We’ve gone from a non-dominant perennial contender to a middle of the pack team.)

- Part of SU’s problem is the strange inability to achieve multiple goals in the same season. We’ve gotten at least a share of the Big East Regular season title in 1980, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2010 and 2012. We’ve won the BET in 1981, 1988, 1992, 2005 and 2006. We’ve gone to the final four in 1987, 1996, 2003 and 2013. The only years we did two of those things were 1987 and 2003 and in both cases we just shared the regular season title, lost in the BET and then went to the final four. In neither case were we favored to go that far. The only SU teams to be a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament were the 1980, 2010 and 2012 teams. The first two were 30 years apart and both of which lost in the Sweet 16. The 2012 team lost in the Elite 8.
(Now we can’t seem to achieve any of them. We’ve never won the ACC regular season title, never won more than one game in the conference tournament and fallen off of the NCAA bubble. We’ve been to one more Final Four but that was seven years ago and we were the worst team there.)

- That list of 27 All-Americans contains one player who really made it big in the NBA: Carmelo Anthony. Pearl Washington was a famous flop. Sherman Douglas and Billy Owens got off to decent starts but then faded. Derrick Coleman became a star but then had his career ruined by injuries. Rony Seikaly was a good, second tier center for a long time and Danny Schayes was a decent back-up center for even a longer time. The others were reserves at best or played most of their careers abroad. When we look at an NBA All-Star game, why don’t we see 1-2 SU alums there? I don’t think any of those 27 All-Americans has ever played on an NBA championship team and they’ve made very few appearances in the All-Star game. (One of the reasons why I can’t get into the NBA is the lack of a “Cuse” factor, whereas the NFL always has numerous prominent SU alums, despite the lesser success of the football program). Shouldn’t the level of talent flowing through the Carrier Dome be at least the equal of any college basketball venue?
(Update: Our best NBA player is now Jeremy Grant. He’s having a good career, currently averaging 20.5 points 4.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and a steal and a block per game for a 32-41 Portland team. The last SU player to play in the NBA finals was Marty Byrnes in 1980, (he played one minute). Nobody who ever played for us in the Carrier Dome has played in an NBA Finals game. We finally got a Boeheim player on the roster of a team that made the finals. Two of them in fact, although it was the same player. Dion Waiters played for both the Miami Heat and the LA Lakers in 2020 and actually got a player’s share from the Lakers. But he was hurt and didn’t actually play in a finals game. And he hasn’t played since. Where is the ‘Cuse’ factor?)

- On the flip side, there is the stain of probation on JB’s record. We all know the details. Alexander Wolff and Armen Keteyian wrote a book called “Raw Recruits” and focused a chapter on a “street agent” named Rob Johnson who had relationships with a number of schools and coaches but primarily with Syracuse at the time the book was written him. It was never pinned down that he did anything illegal but it caused the local paper to do an investigation of the SU program that bordered on the comic. But that relationship with Johnson convinced the NCAA that SU was guilty of “a lack of institutional control” and they gave us a relatively soft penalty, (missing the NCAA tourney for a year and losing a couple of scholarships). It’s likely everybody was using street agents at the time just because they got to the talent before the coaches did. Later the key thing was to develop a relationship with an AAU coach, or even hire them to be on your coaching staff. It’s no accident that SU’s recruiting perked up when Troy Weaver, with his AAU connections was added to the staff. We also suddenly developed a pipeline to Oak Hill, the top high school program in the country and Notre Dame Prep, the top prep school. That’s nice but you wonder what goes on there. There’s always something going on because basketball talent is a market like anything else and people are always finding ways to broker it. A successful coach has to deal with such people. Whoever succeeds JB will have to as well.
(Update: We got bitten by the probation bug again, a quarter century after the first one. Phil Mushnick demanded Jim be fired for being a ‘serial cheater’. The new allegations involved not applying maximum penalties under the school’s drug policy to athletes – a couple of guys had smoked some weed - a YMCA employee not making sure that players completed their assignments and using them for other duties and giving them transportation and footnotes being added to a term paper for a player for whom English was a second language. Meanwhile UNC was having their players pretend to learn Swahili and Louisville was giving them prostitutes. Each probation hits you three ways the investigation, which produces bad publicity, the actual sanctions which limit scholarships and recruiting and the aftermath, during which schools will walk on eggshells to avoid any mistakes lest they get punished even more. It can knock a program back for a decade.)

- One of JB’s albatrosses was that low graduation rate SU had when those stats first started getting published. Again, we know all the arguments. It was a small sample, (compared to what you’d get with a football team). It counted transfers and guys who jumped to the NBA as if they were academic casualties. It’s more difficult for basketball players to defer their studies for the “other” semester because the season is part of two semesters. The numbers have improved since the study. Still it wasn’t a very good advertisement for the program.
(Update: I’ve not heard anything bad about our grad rate in years.)

- Mason, (a couple of years ago), mentioned that he hears comments at the basketball related events he attends that SU has a reputation as a place that recruits problem players. And we have had some problems. DeShaun Williams, Billy Edelin, Louie McCroskey. Paul Harris has a history as well. Then we had Scoop Jardine’s relatives. Then came Eric Devendorf’s confrontations. I’m not sure that the primary complaint is that SU or JB have mishandled the situations players like these have created. It’s just that they happened. We wait with bated breath each year to see who might be suspended. It’s sort of laudable that JB sticks with guys as much as he can. Nobody can say these players weren’t given a chance to straighten out and they have been disciplined multiple times. We have rules here. There hasn’t been anything like laptopgate and JB hasn’t turned into Jerry Tarkanian, recruiting drug pushers and samurai swordsmen to win games. Do we really want a reputation as a school that never takes a chance on a kid? Still, you wonder when something worse than we’ve had to deal with so far might happen.
(Update: I haven’t heard much of this kind of complaint in quite a while, either. And Eric Devendorf has become a model citizen.)


- We so often seem to lack a “killer” instinct. We rarely seem to play 40 minutes with equal intensity, often play down to the level of our opponents and JB sees a lead as a cushion to be used to drain the clock, often going into a slow-down with several minutes to go in a game and depending on his players to make the smart plays needed to seal the win. To me a good lead is an opportunity to get a bigger lead and then send in the reserves to get them playing time. Rick Pitino said that you get 13 scholarships so you might as well use them. He likes to wear down the opposition and develop players. JB prefers to stick with his best guys. Both have been successful but I sometimes wonder what we‘d be like with a Pitino-like approach.
(Update: Our tendency recently has been to get off to bad starts and having to dig ourselves out of a hole, both in game and in the season. Complaints about the slow-down have lessened as we’ve have fewer big leads at the end of games. But on the “Upside” I listed some stats on close games. JB had won 63% of them in his first 38 years, 53% in the last nine.)

- I remember thinking in the 90’s that we were blessed with successful football and basketball programs but I wonder what the Dome might be like with a Steve Spurrier as the football coach, filling the air with footballs and using a Bob Stoops attack defense and then a Rick Pitino type as the basketball coach, pressing for forty minutes and reigning threes on the opposition. The place would be rocking for 6 months and top-level talent would want to come here to play that style of ball. Instead, we became known for conservative offensive and defensive schemes in football and had success for a time but the talent level declined and we suffered a collapse that we are now trying to recover from. In basketball, we used to be an exciting, fast breaking team, the college version of the Laker’s “showtime”. Boeheim subsequently became famous for his zone defense, which can be very effective but which slows down the game, (per Sports Illustrated, opposing teams this year took an average of 21 seconds per possession against us, the highest in the nation). Jim played on a team that pressed for 40 minutes and scored 99 points a game but he doesn’t believe in the strategy himself. When asked why he allows the other team to dictate the pace, he said that there’s not much you can do about it. We didn’t do anything to create scoring opportunities beyond just running our normal offense. As a result we played nothing but close games and an injury or shooting slump turned us from a team that started 25-0 into a 3-6 team because there just wasn’t that much difference between our wins and losses. I’ve always thought one of the hallmarks of a great team is their ability to impose their will on the other team. Instead we allow the other team to make it the type of game they want and try to beat them at that their game.
(It’s not just that we have lost more games than we were used to in the last nine years. It’s so many of them were ugly, grind it out games. Frequently, the other team would have more fast break points than we did in the final box score. We had abandoned the notion of passing the ball downcourt to beat the other team’s defense to the basket or pressuring them on defense to get break-away steals. The “Syracuse Dunk Tape” shows what Syracuse basketball used to look like: “But look at the athletes we had back then!” We had those athletes because we played that way.)

- The teams that have had the most success against us have been the teams that bullied us. JB’s teams tend to be old-fashioned basketball teams that like to run the court and make moves and display their skills, (although the defensive conservatism causes us to get mired in half court games far too much). The increasing trend has been for players to add more muscle and play the game as if it were hockey or football, concentrating on aggressive defensive tactics and preventing the other team from playing their game. We occasionally have beaten teams like the old Georgetown teams, Calhoun’s Connecticut teams or the Pitt teams of this decade, but more often they beat us and often do it decisively. When we win it’s when they come down to our level and we make the plays to win a close one at the end. But we don’t beat those teams when they are at their best. They remain the “boss squirrels”. I don’t care for this trend toward physical basketball, (basketball should be a display of skills, not of muscles), but if that’s what teams are doing to beat us, we’ve got to match them, both in strength and attitude. Since I wrote this in 2011 we’ve moved to the ACC and the NCAA is cracking down on bullying tactics, where were much less in evidence this year.
(Update: I haven’t seen anybody in the ACC who plays like Georgetown, UCONN and Pitt used to but defense on the whole is more physical than it used to be and we always seem to be the skinniest guys on the beach.)

- One false criticism that you hear a lot is that JB doesn’t play enough guys and that the team collapses at the end of the seasons because of this. I’ve made a post called “All’s Well That Ends Well” looking at each year of the Boeheim Era and not finding a trend of end of season collapses. There were slumps, usually in January or February. Some teams were just never good. Our best teams avoided slumps. Virtually every coach plays everybody in November and December and goes with his most consistent contributors and his best combinations after that. The post season is about your starting line-up. The NCAA is two games a week. I kept track of the number of players who have averaged 10 minutes a game since 1982-83, the first year for which the stats are available. Three teams have had ten such players, (including the one two years ago). Four have had 9 such players, (including last year). 16 have had 8 such players, (including this year, counting Coleman who averaged that much before he was hurt). Seven had had 7 such players. One team had only six players average 10 minutes a game- the 1997-98 team, which went 26-9 and lost in the sweet 16. They won 6 of their last 8 games, losing only to Connecticut in the BET final and Duke. In those 32 seasons we’ve had 34 players average 35 minutes a game, (some of them the same player in different years). Two teams had three such players- 2000-1 and 2008-9. They went 25-9 and 28-10, respectively, hardly our worst. In 2001 we won 5 of our last 7 , the Shumpert eye-poke game to Pitt in the BET and the blow-out to Kansas, which was all about rebounding. The 2009 team won 9 of their last 11, including the 6OT game. We lost to Louisville in the BET final and to Blake Griffin and Oklahoma in the NCAAs. Eight teams have had two 35 minute players and twelve had had one. Ten teams have had no 35 minute players. As JB said, the players determine who will play. If 9-10 guys can help us, he’ll use 9-10 guys. If it’s 6-7 guys, that what he uses.
(Update: still basically true. This year, Jim had 8 guys average 10 minutes a game. A couple others averaged 9.2 but didn’t play in all games. Nobody averaged 35 minutes a game. But it’s because Jim was searching all year for the right combination. It’s interesting that Jim is 19-9 all-time against Leonard Hamilton, who famously sends players in waves trying to wear you down. Jim preferred to go with his best guys against Leonard’s 2nd or third team.)

- Jim has been accused of strategic intransigence and in recent years, I think that’s been a valid criticism. He made the decision in 2009 to go strictly with a zone, (which can be played aggressively and has many variations) and it worked: we had six fabulous years. We’ve also pulled off some shockers in the NCAA tournament using the zone, giving Jim the reputation of some kind of defensive savant. But teams that played us a lot learned how to attack the zone, putting a versatile player in the middle of it and running the offense through him and ceased to be mesmerized by it. Now we are in the Steph Curry Era, where young players want to hit threes more than make Michael Jordan dunks. Three point percentages actually haven’t changed much but more players are taking them and the sheer number of attempts, (often taken from father out), can overwhelm the percentages and force the defense to extend itself to cover all the bombs, which opens holes in a zone. Where the shooting percentages go up is inside, where the center often winds up covering both posts and both corners, something Bill Russell couldn’t do. To attempt it, we’ve gone to skinny big men who can cover territory but who can be pushed around by bigger, thicker men. Our defense has gotten worse and worse. We can still score but it's tough trying to outscore teams you can’t stop. Yet Jim has refused to go back to using the man for man, arguing that it takes too much practice time and saying that his team just isn’t any good at it. In the Georgia Tech debacle in the dome, he actually switched the team into it in the second half. We got some stops in a game where a poor team put up 96 points and the crowd cheered. But Jim refused to give the defense any credit after the game.

- On thing this year’s team was good at was pressing. We had the athletes and the shot blockers behind it. But announced as he has done annually for years that “this isn’t one of our better pressing teams. Yet it seemed to turn the game in our favor every time we used it. We were not a good jump shooting team and had trouble trying to win half court games. It would have been the prefect year to regularly use defensive pressure but Jim only went to it if we were way down. When we did make comebacks, he grudgingly acknowledged that it “helped a little’. He claimed that if we used it much, our centers would foul out - but they didn’t. He pointed out that “very few teams use the press these days”. Maybe, but how many teams use the zone as their base defense? Being different isn’t a bad thing. It makes you hard to prepare for. But one thing is surely true: if your coach doesn’t believe in a strategy, you’re going to have a hard time making it work.

- Offensively, Jim was influenced by Mike D’Antoni, an NBA coach with whom he worked in the Olympics. A decade ago, we destroyed a #1 seeded Indiana team on the way to the Final Four with isolation drives to the basket and the pick—and-roll game. It’s been basic to our offense since then. But again, teams get used to what you are doing and in recent years, these 20 foot drives to the basket have tended to get tangled up in the defense. We wind up taking low percentage shots and trying to get fouled. Other teams kill us with penetration and dishes to the baseline or to three point shooters, who already squared to the basket when they receive the ball, can be deadly. We rarely do that. Our drivers are focused only on their own shot and when we get a three pointer, either the shooter has to create the shot himself or turn to get a pass from the perimeter, then turn back to reset and shoot the ball, a lower percentage shot. In 2022, the year we finally had a losing record, Jim had filled the roster, not just with relatives but more importantly with jump shooters. Yet the opposition hit more three pointers than we did and those jump shooters kept trying to drive to the basket as if they were Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche. The feeling grew and grew in recent years that Jim’s refusal to alter tactics to his talent and game situations was holding us back and fewer and fewer people argued against this view. We’ll see how much things change in the Red Autry era. (Red recently promised a prospect that man-to-man will be our base defense, which would be quite a change and shows that Red isn’t bound to JB’s strategies.)

- Jim’s age and energy level were held against him. A photo was circulated showing Jim asleep before a high school game, suggesting that he was not up to recruiting any more. It was taken in 2013, when there were few complaints about our recruiting. There were also complaints when Jim recruited his sons to play for him but they were good players. There were complaints the last few years that Jim didn’t go out on the road at all to recruit but let his assistants do that. But he’s explained that the assistants do most of the player evaluation and early recruiting anyway and that the head coach’s role is to be the ‘closer. Still, there’s no doubt that our recruiting has seriously declined, probably from a combination of Jim’s age and the fan discontent, which leads prospects to wonder who will be coaching them when they get here. Nonetheless, he did manage to recruit a pretty good looking 6 man class last year and we were already starting to put together another one for 2024 when Jim retired.

- The thing is, what sense does it make to recruit a 6 man class, (and basically skip the next year), in this era of the portal where you can lose many of your players for any reason they want. The successful teams this year have been built though the portal, giving them veteran line ups, some of them as old as some NBA teams. Jim opted to build the team the old fashioned way. I asked him why on his show, but he really didn’t answer the question: “We couldn’t bring in transfers because we had these guys, (the 6 frosh). People are still bringing in freshmen. It was the fall of the year before last. We had planned to get 4-5 freshmen and bring in somebody from the portal. But we got 6 guys and two players at each position. Guys are only going to leave the portal for a starting job and we didn’t have one. It’s risky to wait and try to get 4-5 guys from the portal. Ideally you want 2-3 freshmen and 1-2 portal guys. It’s very dangerous to wait until spring. Teams that did that did it because they had no choice.” I think they did it because it’s the better way to build a team these days. Our young players seemed over-matched much of the seasons. We now have to wait for them to mature. Fortunately, the internal promotion seems to have helped as the only defection form the frosh has been Judah Mintz’ declaration for the draft, which doesn’t have to be his final decision.

- Then there’s Jim demeanor, which he admits, has always had a grouchy side but which flared up more and more as the discontent increased and he felt the end to defend himself. I’ve never understood the point of “throwing a player under the bus” in his news conferences because they would have occurred after he addressed the team and talked personally with anyone he had a complaint with. More worrisome was the fact that, whatever happened, Jim felt the need to defend his recent record, resulting in his apparent acceptance of 19-14 records and unranked teams as normal for Syracuse basketball, which is should not be.



- He’s 69 and has been here for 38 years. Whatever it is, it’s not going to change. Whatever you think, you’re still going to think it when he finally heads for the golf course for good.
(Well now he’s 78 and it’s over. Now we’ll have to complain about somebody else.)
SWC75 - I just finished reading your wonderful account of the SU Basketball Team under Jim Boeheim. It is one of the best pieces, if not the best piece I've ever read on this forum. You are consistently great in your thoroughness and complete research on your posts.

So now I am going to add a few things to what you have above.

First, I came to SU in 1963, Dave Bing's first year. At the time SU basketball wasn't known as a perrenial power. Fred Lewis began the run with Dave and handed it off to Danforth.

A player of Bing's caliber put SU on the Basketball map along with the small city of Syracuse. That was my introduction to college basketball and it was great. It excited me to see what one player could do to bring a team into the national spotlight.

I watched, in Manley, a show in and of itself, from player introductions to the oranges being thrown at opposing players to raucous cheers of SO WHAT and BIG DEAL when an opposing players and their coaches would "try "and be introduced to the SRO crowds. A sort of coming out show for Syracuse Basketball fans. They finally had a team they could be proud of and love to be at their games.

I include some of Dave Bing's stats as proof of how good he was. I would put him on any college team today. At 28.4 PPG a tremendous VJ and rebounding skills he was the total package.

Season Stats
SeasonClPosGGSFGFGA%FTFTA%AsstRebFlsDQPtsPPGAPGRPG
1963-64SoG
25​
25​
215​
460​
46.7%​
126​
172​
73.3%​
-​
206​
60​
-​
556​
22.2​
---​
8.0​
1964-65JrG
23​
23​
206​
444​
46.4%​
121​
162​
74.7%​
-​
277​
59​
-​
533​
23.2​
---​
12.4​
1965-66SrG
28​
28​
308​
569​
54.1%​
178​
222​
80.2%​
185​
303​
61​
-​
794​
28.4​
6.6​
10.2​
Career
76​
76
729
1,473​
49.5%​
425​
556​
76.4%​
185​
786​
180​
0​
1,883​
24.8
---
10.3
Dave Bing Syracuse Orangemen Basketball


Dave Bing, the greatest player in Syracuse history, could do it all on and off the court. He led the Orangemen in scoring all three years, and was the all-time leading scorer until Sherman Douglas came along two decades later. Bing was a prolific scorer with a sweet shooting touch, but also a fantastic passer (if assists were official statistics throughout his career he would have racked up quite a few), and a phenomenal rebounder. As one NBA scout said, Bing may not have been the best at anything, but nobody was able to do as much as him.

Bing was a terrific player coming out of Washington D.C., with schools such as UCLA and Michigan recruiting him. However, the legendary Ernie Davis convinced him to come to Syracuse; that, and Bing's own concern that he would get more playing time at a lower profile school.

Bing would electrify fans during his freshman season on the frosh team, and routinely more fans would show up to the freshman game than the varsity game that season. Bing would average 25.7 points a game as a freshman along with 11.3 rebounds.

With Bing as the catalyst, SU went from an 8-13 struggling program to a 22-6 NCAA contender, and a team that led the nation in scoring. As a senior Bing was named All-American, was 5th in the nation in scoring with 28.4 ppg, an SU record.

Bing would be the 2nd player taken in the NBA draft that spring. He was no disappointment as he won the Rookie of the Year honors. Not willing to settle there, Bing led the NBA in scoring his sophomore year, becoming the first guard to do it in 20 years, beating out legendary scorers such as Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor.

Bing would play 12 seasons in the NBA primarily with the Detroit Pistons, but also with the Washington Bullets and Boston Celtics. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980, after an NBA career with the following impressive stats:​

NBA Career Statistics
Guard
901​
32,769
6,962
15,769​
44.1%​
4,403​
5,683​
77.5%​
5,397​
3,420​
2,615​
22​
---​
483​
89​
18,327​
20.3
6.0
3.8
PosGMinFGFGA%FTFTA%AsstRebFlsDQTOSTBSPtsPPGAPGRPG
His #21 was retired by the Detroit Pistons, and he was the first player to have his uniform retired at Syracuse, #22. Bing was 7 times an NBA All-Star and named to the NBA's 50th anniversary All-Time team in 1996. He was named to Syracuse University's All Century team.

Second, you mentioned how we used to be a fast break team and I miss that type of team that we enjoyed from 1985 - 1989 / 113 - 30, the Sherman Douglas, Stevie Thompson years. That was to me THE SYRACUSE BASKETBALL TEAM and how it should have kept on playing. You couldn't sit down bcause you never knew when a spectacular play was about to happen, be it a long pass and dunk per your film or Alley - oop from Douglas to Thompson or Seikaly or Coleman.

I will take exception to "Sherman Douglas and Billy Owens got off to decent starts but then faded"

Sherm played 14 years in the NBA. " Douglas would play the best basketball of his career for the Boston Celtics, managing to pilot the team to the playoffs in 1994–1995 season despite their 35–47 record in the final season of the Boston Garden. Douglas averaged 14.7 points and 6.9 assists per game that year."

That's all I have. If we could play fast - break basketball as we did from 85 - 89 with players like we had then I don't think we'd be having this "conversation". But, how do we get players like we had again? There is so much parity and so much change in the game today. You have to win to get them to want to play in Syracuse. I hope Adrian can bring us back to better seasons with better players. We're going to find out!

Thank you for providing such a detailed perspective on SU Basketball, it is very much appreciated.



#20 Sherman Douglas


6'0"165 lbsGuard


HS: SpingarnWashington, DC


Born: 9/15/1966Washington, DC


Season Stats
Season
Cl
Pos
G
GS
Min
FG
FGA
%
FT
FTA
%
3Pt
3PA
%
Asst
Reb
Fls
DQ
TO
ST
BS
Pts
PPG
APG
RPG
1985-86FrG
27​
0​
307​
57​
93​
61.3%​
32​
44​
72.7%​
---​
---​
---​
57​
44​
33​
0​
33​
33​
5​
146​
5.4
2.1
1.6
1986-87SoG
38​
38​
1240​
246​
463​
53.1%​
151​
203​
74.4%​
16​
49​
32.7%​
289​
97​
72​
0​
121​
64​
5​
659​
17.3
7.6
2.6
1987-88JrG
35​
35​
1195​
222​
428​
51.9%​
104​
150​
69.3%​
14​
53​
26.4%​
288​
76​
55​
0​
117​
69​
1​
562​
16.1
8.2
2.2
1988-89SrG
38​
38​
1348​
272​
498​
54.6%​
110​
174​
63.2%​
39​
106​
36.8%​
326​
93​
71​
2​
139​
69​
1​
693​
18.2
8.6
2.5
Career
138
111
4090
797
1482
53.8%
397
571
69.5%
69
208
33.2%
960
310
231
2
410
235
12
2060
14.9
7.0
2.2

Sherman Douglas was the ultimate floor leader, leading Syracuse to its best three year run in school history. 'The General' was an excellent ball handler, who was a clutch scorer during the crucial moments of the game.

Douglas graduated from Springarn High School in Washington D.C., the same school that Dave Bing attended. Douglas was not highly recruited, with Syracuse being the only Division I school to offer him a scholarship.

As a freshman, Douglas saw limited playing time as the dynamic Pearl Washington was running the show. However, the practice time everyday against the Pearl was invaluable in Douglas’ development.

Douglas had big shoes to fill his sophomore season, as the Pearl left early. Suddenly thrust early into the starting role, expectations were not very high. Everyone was wrong, as Douglas proved to be an excellent floor general and a big scorer. He led the Orangemen in scoring, and they won the Big East regular season championship. That was only the beginning, however, as the Orangemen got even hotter. Douglas played phenomenally in the Big East tournament, scoring a tournament record 35 points against Pittsburgh in the semi-finals (since broken), along with 11 assists. Syracuse would lose in the Big East finals to rival Georgetown, but not due to Douglas' efforts (he had another 20 points, 8 assists). Douglas guided the team through the NCAA tournament, and they reached the NCAA Championship game. Only a Keith Smart shot with seconds remaining spoiled the miraculous run.

Douglas showed himself to be able to run the fast break as well as any player in the country. His trademark was the alley-oop pass, lobbing the ball up near the hoop as sky-walker Stevie Thompson or big men Derrick Coleman and Rony Seikaly would slam it home. Douglas would often focus on passing the ball early in the games, and then would revert to becoming a scorer during the crunch moments of the game. He was gifted at helping his teammates get the easy basket, and very good at minimizing turnovers. Full court presses against Syracuse were foolish because Douglas always seemed to break them.

His junior season, the Orangemen started the season #1 in the country. They would quickly fall from the rank with a loss to North Carolina. However, behind Douglas they remained one of the top teams in the country all season long, and they would win the Big East Championship. There were high expectations in the NCAA tournament. However, Douglas was ill, and while he played against Rhode Island, his game was clearly off, and the Orangemen were upset.

Douglas would lead SU to another fine season his senior year. Early in the season Syracuse had a rematch against Indiana in the preseason NIT, and Douglas would have his most memorable play. Receiving an outlet pass short of mid court, Douglas, without turning around, hiked the ball through his legs, tossing a beautiful pass to Stevie Thompson who would dunk the ball.

It was also a season of personal accolades. Douglas would become Syracuse’s all time leading scorer (later to be broken) and would become the NCAA’s all-time assist leader (again, later to be broken). He would set a Syracuse record with 22 assists against Providence on January 28, 1989. Douglas would be named to the All Big East First Team all three seasons he was a starter, and was the MVP of the 1989 Big East Tournament, despite the fact Syracuse lost the title.

Douglas would be drafted by the NBA's Miami heat in the 2nd round of the 1989 draft.

NBA Career Statistics
Pos
G
Min
FG
FGA
%
FT
FTA
%
3FG
3FA
3Pct
Asst
Reb
Fls
DQ
TO
ST
BS
Pts
PPG
APG
RPG
Guard
765
21,148
3,335
6,886
48.4%
1,601
2,361
67.8%
154
576
26.7%
4,536
1,672
1,612
0
1,760
785
76
8,425
11.0
5.9
2.2
Though small by NBA standards at 6', Douglas would be a solid point guard for twelve seasons. His second year in the league was perhaps his best, as he averaged 18.5 points and 8.5 assists for the Miami Heat. Douglas was able to bring his famed alley-oop pass to the NBA, and succeed with it despite the fact many critics assumed the athletic talent of defenders in the league would prevent. He showed everyone he was the unquestioned master of that pass.

Douglas would lead his team to the playoffs four times (1992, 1993, 1995, and 1998), making it past the first round just one time. Overall he would play for Miami (1990-90), Boston (92-96), Milwaukee (96-97), New Jersey (98, 2000-01), and the Los Angeles Clippers (99). He retired from the league in 2001.

His uniform was retired by Syracuse in 2005, and he was named to the Syracuse All Century Team in 2000.
 
Last edited:
SWC75 - I just finished reading your wonderful account of the SU Basketball Team under Jim Boeheim. It is one of the best pieces, if not the best piece I've ever read on this forum. You are consistently great in your thoroughness and complete research on your posts.

So now I am going to add a few things to what you have above.

First, I came to SU in 1963, Dave Bing's first year. At the time SU basketball wasn't known as a perrenial power. Fred Lewis began the run with Dave and handed it off to Danforth.

A player of Bing's caliber put SU on the Basketball map along with the small city of Syracuse. That was my introduction to college basketball and it was great. It excited me to see what one player could do to bring a team into the national spotlight.

I watched, in Manley, a show in and of itself, from player introductions to the oranges being thrown at opposing players to raucous cheers of SO WHAT and BIG DEAL when an opposing players and their coaches would "try "and be introduced to the SRO crowds. A sort of coming out show for Syracuse Basketball fans. They finally had a team they could be proud of and love to be at their games.

I include some of Dave Bing's stats as proof of how good he was. I would put him on any college team today. At 28.4 PPG a tremendous VJ and rebounding skills he was the total package.

Season Stats
SeasonClPosGGSFGFGA%FTFTA%AsstRebFlsDQPtsPPGAPGRPG
1963-64SoG
25​
25​
215​
460​
46.7%​
126​
172​
73.3%​
-​
206​
60​
-​
556​
22.2​
---​
8.0​
1964-65JrG
23​
23​
206​
444​
46.4%​
121​
162​
74.7%​
-​
277​
59​
-​
533​
23.2​
---​
12.4​
1965-66SrG
28​
28​
308​
569​
54.1%​
178​
222​
80.2%​
185​
303​
61​
-​
794​
28.4​
6.6​
10.2​
Career
76​
76
729
1,473​
49.5%​
425​
556​
76.4%​
185​
786​
180​
0​
1,883​
24.8
---
10.3
Dave Bing Syracuse Orangemen Basketball
Dave Bing, the greatest player in Syracuse history, could do it all on and off the court. He led the Orangemen in scoring all three years, and was the all-time leading scorer until Sherman Douglas came along two decades later. Bing was a prolific scorer with a sweet shooting touch, but also a fantastic passer (if assists were official statistics throughout his career he would have racked up quite a few), and a phenomenal rebounder. As one NBA scout said, Bing may not have been the best at anything, but nobody was able to do as much as him.

Bing was a terrific player coming out of Washington D.C., with schools such as UCLA and Michigan recruiting him. However, the legendary Ernie Davis convinced him to come to Syracuse; that, and Bing's own concern that he would get more playing time at a lower profile school.

Bing would electrify fans during his freshman season on the frosh team, and routinely more fans would show up to the freshman game than the varsity game that season. Bing would average 25.7 points a game as a freshman along with 11.3 rebounds.

With Bing as the catalyst, SU went from an 8-13 struggling program to a 22-6 NCAA contender, and a team that led the nation in scoring. As a senior Bing was named All-American, was 5th in the nation in scoring with 28.4 ppg, an SU record.

Bing would be the 2nd player taken in the NBA draft that spring. He was no disappointment as he won the Rookie of the Year honors. Not willing to settle there, Bing led the NBA in scoring his sophomore year, becoming the first guard to do it in 20 years, beating out legendary scorers such as Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor.

Bing would play 12 seasons in the NBA primarily with the Detroit Pistons, but also with the Washington Bullets and Boston Celtics. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980, after an NBA career with the following impressive stats:​

NBA Career Statistics
Guard
901​
32,769
6,962
15,769​
44.1%​
4,403​
5,683​
77.5%​
5,397​
3,420​
2,615​
22​
---​
483​
89​
18,327​
20.3
6.0
3.8
PosGMinFGFGA%FTFTA%AsstRebFlsDQTOSTBSPtsPPGAPGRPG
His #21 was retired by the Detroit Pistons, and he was the first player to have his uniform retired at Syracuse, #22. Bing was 7 times an NBA All-Star and named to the NBA's 50th anniversary All-Time team in 1996. He was named to Syracuse University's All Century team.

Second, you mentioned how we used to be a fast break team and I miss that type of team that we enjoyed from 1985 - 1989 / 113 - 30, the Sherman Douglas, Stevie Thompson years. That was to me THE SYRACUSE BASKETBALL TEAM and how it should have kept on playing. YOu couldn't sit down bcause you never knew when a spectacular play was about to happen, be it a long pass and dunk per your film or Alley - oop from Douglas to Thompson or Seikaly or Coleman.

I will take exception to "Sherman Douglas and Billy Owens got off to decent starts but then faded"

Sherm played 14 years in the NBA. " Douglas would play the best basketball of his career for the Boston Celtics, managing to pilot the team to the playoffs in 1994–1995 season despite their 35–47 record in the final season of the Boston Garden. Douglas averaged 14.7 points and 6.9 assists per game that year."

That's all I have. If we could play fast - break basketball as we did from 85 - 89 with players like we had then I don't think we'd be having this "conversation". But, how do we get players like we had again. There is so much parity and so much change in the game today. You have to win to get them to want to play in Syracuse. I hope Adrian can bring us back to better seasons with better players. We're going otfind out!

Thank you for providing such a detailed perspective on SU Basketball, it is very much appreciated.



#20 Sherman Douglas


6'0"165 lbsGuard


HS: SpingarnWashington, DC


Born: 9/15/1966Washington, DC


Season Stats
Season
Cl
Pos
G
GS
Min
FG
FGA
%
FT
FTA
%
3Pt
3PA
%
Asst
Reb
Fls
DQ
TO
ST
BS
Pts
PPG
APG
RPG
1985-86FrG
27​
0​
307​
57​
93​
61.3%​
32​
44​
72.7%​
---​
---​
---​
57​
44​
33​
0​
33​
33​
5​
146​
5.4
2.1
1.6
1986-87SoG
38​
38​
1240​
246​
463​
53.1%​
151​
203​
74.4%​
16​
49​
32.7%​
289​
97​
72​
0​
121​
64​
5​
659​
17.3
7.6
2.6
1987-88JrG
35​
35​
1195​
222​
428​
51.9%​
104​
150​
69.3%​
14​
53​
26.4%​
288​
76​
55​
0​
117​
69​
1​
562​
16.1
8.2
2.2
1988-89SrG
38​
38​
1348​
272​
498​
54.6%​
110​
174​
63.2%​
39​
106​
36.8%​
326​
93​
71​
2​
139​
69​
1​
693​
18.2
8.6
2.5
Career
138
111
4090
797
1482
53.8%
397
571
69.5%
69
208
33.2%
960
310
231
2
410
235
12
2060
14.9
7.0
2.2
Sherman Douglas was the ultimate floor leader, leading Syracuse to its best three year run in school history. 'The General' was an excellent ball handler, who was a clutch scorer during the crucial moments of the game.

Douglas graduated from Springarn High School in Washington D.C., the same school that Dave Bing attended. Douglas was not highly recruited, with Syracuse being the only Division I school to offer him a scholarship.

As a freshman, Douglas saw limited playing time as the dynamic Pearl Washington was running the show. However, the practice time everyday against the Pearl was invaluable in Douglas’ development.

Douglas had big shoes to fill his sophomore season, as the Pearl left early. Suddenly thrust early into the starting role, expectations were not very high. Everyone was wrong, as Douglas proved to be an excellent floor general and a big scorer. He led the Orangemen in scoring, and they won the Big East regular season championship. That was only the beginning, however, as the Orangemen got even hotter. Douglas played phenomenally in the Big East tournament, scoring a tournament record 35 points against Pittsburgh in the semi-finals (since broken), along with 11 assists. Syracuse would lose in the Big East finals to rival Georgetown, but not due to Douglas' efforts (he had another 20 points, 8 assists). Douglas guided the team through the NCAA tournament, and they reached the NCAA Championship game. Only a Keith Smart shot with seconds remaining spoiled the miraculous run.

Douglas showed himself to be able to run the fast break as well as any player in the country. His trademark was the alley-oop pass, lobbing the ball up near the hoop as sky-walker Stevie Thompson or big men Derrick Coleman and Rony Seikaly would slam it home. Douglas would often focus on passing the ball early in the games, and then would revert to becoming a scorer during the crunch moments of the game. He was gifted at helping his teammates get the easy basket, and very good at minimizing turnovers. Full court presses against Syracuse were foolish because Douglas always seemed to break them.

His junior season, the Orangemen started the season #1 in the country. They would quickly fall from the rank with a loss to North Carolina. However, behind Douglas they remained one of the top teams in the country all season long, and they would win the Big East Championship. There were high expectations in the NCAA tournament. However, Douglas was ill, and while he played against Rhode Island, his game was clearly off, and the Orangemen were upset.

Douglas would lead SU to another fine season his senior year. Early in the season Syracuse had a rematch against Indiana in the preseason NIT, and Douglas would have his most memorable play. Receiving an outlet pass short of mid court, Douglas, without turning around, hiked the ball through his legs, tossing a beautiful pass to Stevie Thompson who would dunk the ball.

It was also a season of personal accolades. Douglas would become Syracuse’s all time leading scorer (later to be broken) and would become the NCAA’s all-time assist leader (again, later to be broken). He would set a Syracuse record with 22 assists against Providence on January 28, 1989. Douglas would be named to the All Big East First Team all three seasons he was a starter, and was the MVP of the 1989 Big East Tournament, despite the fact Syracuse lost the title.

Douglas would be drafted by the NBA's Miami heat in the 2nd round of the 1989 draft.

NBA Career Statistics
Pos
G
Min
FG
FGA
%
FT
FTA
%
3FG
3FA
3Pct
Asst
Reb
Fls
DQ
TO
ST
BS
Pts
PPG
APG
RPG
Guard
765
21,148
3,335
6,886
48.4%
1,601
2,361
67.8%
154
576
26.7%
4,536
1,672
1,612
0
1,760
785
76
8,425
11.0
5.9
2.2
Though small by NBA standards at 6', Douglas would be a solid point guard for twelve seasons. His second year in the league was perhaps his best, as he averaged 18.5 points and 8.5 assists for the Miami Heat. Douglas was able to bring his famed alley-oop pass to the NBA, and succeed with it despite the fact many critics assumed the athletic talent of defenders in the league would prevent. He showed everyone he was the unquestioned master of that pass.

Douglas would lead his team to the playoffs four times (1992, 1993, 1995, and 1998), making it past the first round just one time. Overall he would play for Miami (1990-90), Boston (92-96), Milwaukee (96-97), New Jersey (98, 2000-01), and the Los Angeles Clippers (99). He retired from the league in 2001.

His uniform was retired by Syracuse in 2005, and he was named to the Syracuse All Century Team in 2000.

Thanks for the compliments and back at 'ya.

It's no wonder Red just signed a DC area coach to his new staff.
 

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