"Is that guy ever going to retire?"
That was the question my wife asked me as long time Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim watched his Orange warm up prior to their first exhibition game against the Pace University Setters. My response? "I hope he coaches until he drops dead."
I'm of an age where Jim Boeheim is all I know of Syracuse basketball. Sure, my fanhood and writing has led me to seek out knowledge of what it was like prior to Jim B. Roy Danforth is not a foreign name to me. Syracuse's Helms Foundation championships are in my orange databanks. Still, my first hand experience with Syracuse hoops begins and ends with one James Arthur Boeheim.
Then the wife asked why I'd want this crusty old man to coach himself into his grave. Again, the answer was simple. He wins games. Twenty plus wins a year (closer to 25-30 these days) like clockwork is something that's hard to replace. Sure, Mike Hopkins has had top notch on the job training the last fifteen years or so as he prepares for the day when the program is handed over to him. But there's no guarantee he'll be able to pick up where Jim B left off. There's no guarantee that, with Hopkins at the helm, 20 wins and a top five NCAA seed are virtual locks. He might to a phenomenal job and lead Syracuse to basketball glory for the next 30 years. Or he might go the way of Pat Knight or Matt Dougherty, and stink up the joint in the wake of a legend. So, for me, let's get as much out of James Arthur as he's willing to give us.
Still, change is inevitable. Even if Boeheim coaches until he croaks, he's not going to live forever. So, how much longer does he have?
I say no less than five years, and here's why.
First, as much as Boeheim claims not to care about records or his legacy, he's very well aware of his place in the pantheon of college basketball coaches. He's an all-timer and he knows it, even if he doesn't show it. And he also knows that he has a chance to go where very few have gone before and few will follow; 1000 wins. Clearly, he won't be the first. Pat Summit did it in the women's game and Mike Krzyzewski will likely reach that milestone with the men before Boeheim does. Still, that's a staggering number. Of all the thousands of people who have coached college basketball at its highest level, only three will have ever even sniffed 1000 wins, much less achieved it. And, for what it's worth, Boeheim would be the first men's D1 coach (and likely only...ever) to win all 1000 at one school. 73 of Krzyzewski's 927 wins to date came while he was the head man at Army.
Jim B can do it. He starts the 2012-13 season with 890 wins. To reach 1000, he needs to average 27.5 wins a year over the next four. He's averaged just under 30 wins a season over the last four. Of course, win totals in the 30's depend on making deep conference and NCAA tournament runs. So one bad game potentially eliminates two or three more W's to the tally. Yet, taking all that into account, Jim B is looking at no more than four seasons and change to get to 1,000. It's close enough to be a realistic goal and it's one that I think Boeheim secretly covets.
If going for 1,000 wins doesn't keep Boeheim around the move to the ACC will. A lot of people thought the move would be what drove Jim B out, that he wouldn't want to put in the work to establish the program in a new conference. That's exactly what he wants. Don't get me wrong. Jim B is clearly a Big East loyalist. He hates the move as much as anybody. But the pride he has in his program won't let him take his ball and go home, so to speak. He's not going to want to leave until Syracuse basketball is an established power in the ACC. He's going to stick around until the time comes when people think "Duke, UNC and Syracuse" whenever ACC basketball is mentioned. And that just takes time. Winning an ACC title is great, but doing it once only shows Syracuse to be a flash in the pan. Jim B won't be satisfied with that. It'll take two, three, four ACC crowns for the Orange to cement its place as a power to be reckoned with. Winning conference championships right out the gate would be fabulous and well within the realm of possibility. But it's more likely that they win two or three in their first five or six years.
Boeheim has those five years in him. He has enough left in the tank to ensure that his Orange have a strong foothold in the ACC when he finally turns the program over to his protege. And when all is said and done, Jim Boeheim's legacy at Syracuse will be less about a titles or Final Four or wins and more about how he left the program when he was done. He built Syracuse basketball into a power and will damn sure make certain it's primed to stay that way for long after he's gone.
As it turns out, I'm not the only one with an opinion on this subject. Here's what some other Nunesers have to say.