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Syracuse Basketball: Jim Boeheim's Legacy Is Whatever You Want It To Be

A year ago, Jim Boeheim was a master of the craft reborn. A year later, he's a guy who can't win. Which version of the story do you tell?

In 38 seasons at Syracuse, Jim Boeheim has the 2nd-most wins of any D-1 coach (947), has never had a losing season, has taken four teams to the Final Four in four difference decades (one of only four people) and won the 2003 National Championship.

In 38 seasons at Syracuse, Jim Boeheim has routinely lost on the big stage more than he has won, only won that title because of Carmelo Anthony and is the only coach in history to lose to six double-digit seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

Both of those statements contain truths. Both of those statements could be used to prove your argument about Jim Boeheim's legacy or #narrative.

Really, it's up to you how you choose to tell Jim Boeheim's story. And perhaps it says something about you how you tell it.

In the aftermath of Syracuse's 55-53 loss to the Dayton Flyers in the third round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, the latter version of Jim Boeheim's story was the dominant one. He's overrated. He failed as a coach tonight. He's the Peyton Manning of college coaches…great regular season, can't win when it matters (even though they both have).

Of course, this is almost exactly a year removed from all those same people pointing to Syracuse's 2013 Final Four run and saying how Boeheim's still got it and oh what a master technician he is.

Alas, it's the six losses to double-digit seeds that controls the day. Understandably, it's a sexy stat for Boeheim (and Syracuse) dissenters. Sure, he wins 25 games a year, but his team *always* chokes when it matters.

It probably should be noted the other guys in the vicinity, with five losses to double-digit seeds, include Mike Krzyzewski and Bobby Knight, both of whom I believe are considered legendary coaches. It also includes John Thompson III, who has five DD losses in ten NCAA appearances with Georgetown. If Boeheim is a chump for six DD losses in 30 appearances, what does that make JTIII???

This is about the time that I remind everyone just how life-changing, or at least narrative-changing, Keith Smart's shot was. If Smart misses that shot, in a moment in which Boeheim & Knight had absolutely no control over, the entire story changes. Boeheim has two titles, which is apparently the requisite number of titles needed to be considered a decent coach, and Knight still has his own two titles but is remembered for a much bigger late-career slide.

I've seen a lot of folks chastise Boeheim for Syracuse's inability to score, in the Dayton game and before. Hell, most of them tweeted it to me last night. And while I understand the sentiment, and do wonder what else Jim could have done to coach up his players mentally, here's the truth.

  • Syracuse had open looks all night long. They didn't make the shots. Especially from beyond the arc.
  • Boeheim told Tyler Ennis to drive to the rim on the final set possession. Ennis pulled up for a 19-footer.

Jim Boeheim is the coach, and it's his responsibility to give his players the best chance to win. But the players have to go out there and execute. And they didn't. It's really as simple as that.

If anything, Boeheim's coaching and defensive strategy kept Syracuse in the game far past when they should have been. Based on the way they were shooting, Syracuse probably should have lost by ten.

But, I realize there is no talking to someone who just wants to pull out the negative narrative and run with it. Like I said, those facts are not untrue. But, you and I both know they don't tell the whole story. That the six losses are more likely a "cost of doing business" for so long in the NCAA Tournament (30 appearances).

Jim Boeheim is a flawed coach. I don't think I'm shocking anyone with that statement. He runs his program loosely, sometimes to his benefit and sometimes to his detriment. He relies heavily on his players to find their own success, also a good and bad strategy. He has ways and ideas and concepts that may or may not still work or even be relevant.

In 30 NCAA appearances, Jim Boeheim has taken Syracuse to the Sweet Sixteen seventeen times. He has also lost to double-digit seeds six times. Both of those facts are unassailable. Neither of them tell the whole story.

Unless you want them to.