Saturday has a chance to be a big day in the Syracuse Orange basketball world.
The Orange has a chance to get another signature win on the season, and Jim Boeheim goes for his 1,000th career victory.
A win over No. 9 Virginia would give SU its fourth straight victory, but it’s bigger than that. Boeheim has a chance to do something that will put not only his legacy, but the Syracuse basketball program, in elite company.
Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has 1,060 career wins, which is the most all-time in D-I men’s college basketball. Boeheim, depending on who you ask, is second with 999. According to the NCAA, Boeheim currently has 898 wins — which is third all-time and just four behind legendary coach Bob Knight.
If win No. 1,000 comes on Saturday, it cannot — and will not — be acknowledged by the university. The NCAA has been firm with its stance on this issue, and the official records say Jim Boeheim isn’t close to 1,000 wins. However, SU could celebrate Boeheim’s 900th win (again), whenever that may come (probably this season).
When Boeheim was recently reminded by Syracuse.com’s Bud Polquin he was nearing 1,000 wins, he replied:
“Not according to that (pointing to a press guide). So I'm not discussing it. I'm not. There's nothing to discuss. It's not happening. The NCAA has told us it's not happening. The NCAA has told us that we can't talk about it and we can't do anything. It's not happening. I can't talk about something that's not happening. I cannot talk about anything. Look at the record books. There are no wins. The wins are not there."
ESPN’s Jay Bilas reminded everyone on Twitter that the NCAA doesn’t vacate losses, so there’s a different way to look at the upcoming milestone.
NCAA does NOT vacate losses. Jim Boeheim has coached 999 games in which the other team lost. Boeheim has handed his SU opponents 999 losses!— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) February 2, 2017
But why is this such a big deal to the Syracuse community?
It’s about pride. It’s about the town and it’s about the one thing that everyone rallies around: Syracuse basketball.
When the NCAA sanctions came down, it felt like a lot of fans took it personal. Almost like it was a shot at their character for having this program as a passion. And when the NCAA took away scholarships and wins from Boeheim, the effort (time, money, emotions) they put into the program felt like it had been betrayed. Not by SU, of course. But by the NCAA, who overreached on punishing Syracuse (compared to other programs).
Jim Boeheim is Syracuse. And Syracuse is Jim Boeheim. It’s that simple.
When something happens to him, it’s personal to the town, the program and alumni throughout the country. Even if you have never met Jim Boeheim, you still feel like you know him.
Winning 1,000 games puts Boeheim in company with one of his best friends, and further adds to the resume of one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time. But most importantly, it gives Syracuse fans — those that have ridden the long road out with him for many of those (or even just one of them) — the satisfaction that our coach has done what few have before.
There will always be the argument that Jim Boeheim only has one national title, but it’s the longevity of his career that is incredible. Forty-plus years without a losing season, five Final Fours, AP Coach of the Year in 2010, four-time Big East Coach of the Year, five Big East Tournament Championships — but none of that is important to Jim. He doesn’t gloat, he doesn’t brag and he doesn’t talk about his accomplishments.
Everything is “us” or “Syracuse” or “we” — and that’s what makes Jim Boeheim, Jim Boeheim.
That what makes the Syracuse basketball community a family, and that’s what makes 30,000-plus fans travel to watch his team play during whiteouts each winter. That’s what makes him a Hall of Famer, a legend and one of the all-time greats.
Whether he gets his 1,000th this Saturday, next week or next season — no one can touch his accomplishments. Not even the corrupt NCAA.