After years of waiting in the wings, Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins finally got his shot at being the head coach of alma mater. Though I am sure it was not the way he envisioned it in his Orange-tinted dreams.
For the last 11 seconds of Saturday's match up with #5 Duke, Hopkins was the HOIC (Head Orange in Charge) after a charge call on Syracuse star C.J. Fair sent Syracuse's Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim into a herky-jerky, profanity-laced protest on the court named for Boeheim's Team USA pal.
Boeheim's two-step earned him two technical fouls and an ejection from his team's biggest road gameof the year. It was Boeheim's first ejection... ever.
"I just wanted to see if I still had it in me to get out there, and I did," a much more calm Boeheim joked after the game. "I got out there pretty good. I thought I was quick. I stayed down. I didn't get injured, so all those things are good."
Moments after the joke, Boeheim turned to a more serious matter. The call that some Syracuse fans will say cost the Orange a win at one of the most difficult venues to get a W.
"I just thought it was the worst call of the year, that's all. I just hate to see the game decided on that call," he said.
For Duke fans, the charge call was probably an appropriate ending given many believe they were robbed when Syracuse was NOT called for a foul as time winded down during the team's first match up, a Syracuse win, earlier this month.
While the block/charge debate raged in the media room immediately after the game and is likely still being debated on Twitter, Coach Boeheim stated with confidence the wrong call was made by referee Tony Greene.
"I saw the replay, and the guy was moving. Simple as that. It's a new rule, it's a block," Boeheim said. "That was the game-decider right there. We weren't happy with the call."
Despite his protest, Boeheim called the game "tremendous" and deemed the Orange defensive effort as good as it's been all year.
But what about those officials?
"I thought the game was extremely well-officiated, as well as we've had all year. I make jokes, but that's not a joke. I thought it was tremendously well officiated - three great officials."
While much of the post-game talk was about "The call-tech-ejection" sequence, the loss cannot be simply blamed on the late-game whistle.
Syracuse starting guards Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney combined to shoot 3-18 from the field, scoring a total of 13 points, once you add in free throws. Cooney, consider Syracuse's only "real" deep threat missed all three of his three-point shot attempts.
The third Syracuse guard, Duke transfer Michael Gbinije, provided an 8 point lift off the bench and made two three pointers to help Syracuse race out to a 26-21 in the first half.
As a Syracuse fan, experiencing my first game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, I must say I was impressed with how well the Orange kept their poise under the circumstances. While there were specks of Orange sprinkled among the 9,300+ in attendance, the Cameron Crazies lived up to the hype, in my opinion.
The place is loud, really loud, and the Crazies celebrate each Duke point as if it was Christian Laettner's buzzer beater over Kentucky.
After the game Syracuse forward Jermi Grant called Cameron "crazy" and the loudest place he'd played. He did say Pittsburgh was the second loudest.
Boeheim too called the atmosphere "great," but recalled something former St. John's coach Lou Carnesecca once said, "Those people up there can make all the noise they want. They don't score any points."
Unfortunately for Syracuse, neither did Cooney and Ennis.
Syracuse must once again put this game behind them. Maryland awaits on Monday.
Game story written by Scott Wise.