I want you to think back to where Syracuse was at the start of conference play. Try to remember how dismal the Syracuse basketball season felt in early January.
On the first day of the new year, Syracuse came off a brutal loss at Boston College and owned a record of 8-6. Those six losses included one to Georgetown at home, one to a short-handed UConn team and a blowout to St. John’s in which the Orange got ran out of its own gym.
It was over. Done. That Syracuse team was left for dead. One in which Jim Boeheim prognosticated to be one of his best in a long time just months prior.
NCAA Tournament? Forget about it. Syracuse wasn’t even on track to make the NIT.
But then Boeheim made some changes. He made John Gillon the primary point guard and shortened his rotation. The Orange returned home and picked up a pair of wins against Miami and Pitt. It dropped two on the road but quickly bounced back to win five straight, including wins over Florida State and Virginia.
Suddenly Syracuse was back in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Next it was Duke — Syracuse won at the buzzer, earning its third top 10 win of the season.
“Obviously I love Jim and his family. Congratulations to them. You don’t know what a treasure you have in him,” Mike Krzyzewski said following Syracuse’s win over Duke.
“I’ve been with him these 11 years with USA Basketball. He’s brilliant, competitive, loyal and he doesn’t need his ego scratched. In other words he’s humbled as long as we win. I love the guy and I’ll be forever grateful for him, for what he did and the bond that we developed,” Coach K finished.
Just in that segment alone we can gather how much Coach K values Jim and how special he believes Jim to be.
Jim’s impact transcends basketball. There’s no doubt that the city of Syracuse and Syracuse University are better served because of Jim. He’s indirectly bettered the lives of Syracuse denizens and directly impacted the people and players who have come through his program. Long Syracuse winters are made bearable in Central New York thanks to what Jim has built. Former players are now playing professionally, some are coaches in their own right, all fueled by his influence. That’s not to mention all that Jim has done for Coaches vs. Cancer and USA Basketball.
There aren’t many coaches that could have righted this season’s sinking Syracuse basketball ship, especially in the way that Boeheim has done it. In fact, I’d bet that there are less than 10 coaches nationally who could have turned a season like this around. Syracuse now finds itself on the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble heading into the ACC Tournament. That’s pretty remarkable, isn’t it?
Although it sounded to be rather tongue-in-cheek, Boeheim has thrown out the idea of retiring after this season. I highly doubt that that holds true, but it does offer some perspective — the Jim Boeheim era is coming to a close. When you see a guy on the sidelines for 42 seasons, it becomes hard to imagine anyone else in his place. You begin to take it for granted.
The reality is, this part of the storybook is in its final chapters.
Whether we have him for just a few more games, one more season or five years, we should hold onto and appreciate this era for as long as we can. We just don’t know how much longer we’ll have Jim as head coach of Syracuse.
My message is this: Enjoy this week as we head into ACC Tournament and hopefully NCAA Tournament play. If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s that you’re going to miss Jim when he’s gone. As Coach K eloquently proclaimed, we don’t know what a treasure we have in him.