Mar 22, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim in the first half of the east region of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament against the Wisconsin Badgers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Michael Ivins-US PRESSWIRE
I think it is safe to say Jim Boeheim has seen it all. Especially after the season that is now a few weeks dead and buried. Big wins and big scandals, something of a theme for SU hoops in 2011-12. In many ways, though, this season had to give Boeheim a feeling of deja-vu. Being in charge for nearly four decades allows for history to run on a loop, even in the craziest of times.
We all just lived through what many consider the strangest, most complicated, and fun seasons in Orange basketball history. A lot of wins and a lot of bad press. This past season was like a rip-off version of CSI, except for us it would have been TMZ-Syracuse.
It wasn't long ago people speculated that this season of trial and tribulation might end Boeheim's career, either on his own accord or otherwise. Now, as SU waits for DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant to matriculate, and Michael-Carter Williams and Rakeem Christmas to prepare to take the next step in their college career, I think it's safe to assume Boeheim will be back for season number 37 as head man.
And why wouldn't he be back? This season further proved Boeheim's love and dedication for not just Syracuse University, but for basketball itself. A lot of people, maybe lesser coaches, would have ran for the hills either during or right after the final whistle. But, Boeheim's experience also gives him perspective.
A perspective and a knowing that, 'this too shall pass.' We are approaching an anniversary of sorts for Boeheim. Nearly 20 years ago there was speculation that the coach wouldn't or couldn't survive a scandal. Sound familiar?
The Syracuse Post Standard had run reports painting the hoops program, along with other programs on the Hill, as out of control. Eventually, the NCAA ruled that boosters had infiltrated Boeheim's teams. Gifts of money, cars, and free dinners on the town were evidently common (not exactly mind-blowing accusations, but still, bad).
It wasn't just the 'program' dealing with scandal over a period of time in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Players were feeling the heat too. Conrad McRae (Winner of The Most Underrated Athlete at SU Ever award. A combo of Hakim Warrick and Stephie Thompson in a more athletic body.) was fighting and suing the NCAA. David/Dave/Davie Johnson was accused of having sexual relations with a minor. Things, as people say, weren't good.
I'm sure I'm like most fans who will never forget seeing anchors, both news and sports, describing the ugly situation at Syracuse with the giant block S over their shoulders. It was, to say the least, a tough time for Orange basketball.
At that time Boeheim wasn't exactly the revered coach he is today. Many fans had grown tired of talented teams loaded with All Americans coming up short in March. Richmond, Rhode Island, and Navy were still fresh in fans minds (stop with the Vermont jokes). The common rip on Boeheim was that he was a recruiter and not a coach. So, when the NCAA finally ruled that his program would be labeled a cheater, a large swath of the fanbase actually hoped it would get him out the door.
In the end the NCAA didn't crack down nearly as hard as some experts thought they would or could. Boeheim survived the scandal and went on to win a national title, be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and be the main face on Syracuse University's Mount Rushmore. In fact, in surviving that scandal, there really wasn't proof Boeheim had knowledge of most of the rule breaking. Yeah, we've heard that before.
A major defense of Boeheim this past season, that he let's his coaches and players be 'men,' was the same defense 20 years ago. He coaches on the court and expects adults to act accordingly off the court. Why would he assume adult fans and friends of the team were paying kids? Just the same, why would he assume anything of an assistant coach?
Of course, the Fine situation is far more heinous. No one would ever question that, but, given the scope of the entire year, from Fine to drug tests to APR issues, why would anyone expect Boeheim to do anything else but prepare for another season on the Hill? For as draining a year as this had to be for the Hall of Fame coach, he's been through trying times. That's what 36 years will get you. No one thought it could get worse than '92 for SU hoops. I think we're all thinking the same thing after '12. Boeheim's not thinking that though, he's just doing what he's always done.
Dealing and surviving. It comes in coaching with experience. Experience that you can only get, coincidentally, by dealing and surviving. In one form or another, history will always repeat itself if you can deal and survive long enough to allow it.