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Syracuse men’s basketball: Autry, Cooley openly endorse renewed Orange-Hoyas rivalry

Both first-year coaches for the Orange and Hoyas are set on writing the next chapter of two long-time rivals.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Something felt different about the 99th matchup between the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team and the rival Georgetown Hoyas this past weekend.

Georgetown coach Ed Cooley seemed to notice it too.

“I hated seeing all the Syracuse Orange in our building,” Cooley said at a postgame press conference following the Orange’s 80-68 win on Saturday over the Hoyas. “It goes to tell you how intense this game is, and that definitely felt like a Big East game. It definitely felt like a Big East game.”

Less than two minutes later, Cooley went from one fiery remark to another:

“I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this goddamn game next year.”

Syracuse defeated Georgetown on the road for the first time since the 2017-2018 season, but the result with the most implications wasn’t the final score. It’s what didn’t show up on the stat sheet: the energy, the intensity... the feeling of a rivalry reborn.

It felt like it was back. But is it too early to say so?

The answer to that question would be of course, especially with both the former Big East rivals under brand new coaching: Cooley with G-Town and Adrian Autry with Syracuse. Some time and patience will be needed as both Cooley and Autry — two individuals with decades of experience competing in the Big East — aim to bring new life to two historic programs.

And, in the process of hoping to turn the page of the recent struggles for both ‘Cuse and G-Town, Autry and Cooley are hoping to also bring a renewed energy to the Orange and Hoyas rivalry.

“This is not just, you know, us, this is about people that have played before us, and how important this is to our community, our fan base, and for both universities,” Autry said at his postgame press conference. “We want to continue to series, we want this series alive, and it’s a good series. I think as it continues to build and I continue to build, this series will get the pop and the respect that it deserves.”

Syracuse v Georgetown Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

It’s pretty typical to see higher turnout for Orange versus Hoyas, at least compared to most Georgetown games. Even with the 11:30 am tip-off on Saturday, however, Capitol One Arena saw roughly triple the attendance in comparison to an average home game for the Hoyas this year.

Heading into Saturday’s game, the Hoyas ranked second-to-last in home attendance in the Big East — approximately 5,500 fans per game in an arena which seats over 20,000 people. This weekend, attendance for Syracuse versus Georgetown was north of 14,000.

Saturday’s game between the Orange and the Hoyas marked the first time both programs faced off in the post-Jim Boeheim era. Under Boeheim, Syracuse played Georgetown 82 times as the rivalry defined Big East basketball in the 80s.

Georgetown University vs Syracuse University Set Number: X156246 TK1 R1 F129

The battle of the former Big East giants regressed in the past decade. Syracuse experienced some subpar years down the stretch of Boeheim’s tenure, ultimately leading to Autry taking over the program on March 8. One day later, Georgetown cut the cord on the Patrick Ewing era, a period which saw the Hoyas finish with a 75–109 overall record, zero above-.500 seasons in the Big East and one postseason berth in six years.

The arrival of Autry and Cooley to Syracuse and Georgetown, respectively, brings hope to the alumni who grew up watching the Orange-Hoyas clashes of the Big East era. It invites a new opportunity to reinvigorate the long-time rivalry, even with the programs not at the same level of success as they once were.

Autry and Cooley aren’t new to the scene of Syracuse versus G-Town. Both understand the names that came before them, whether on the coaching side with Boeheim for Syracuse and guys like John Thompson for Georgetown, or the laundry list of iconic players who competed at the rivalry’s apex — Ewing, Pearl Washington, Allen Iverson, John Wallace, Alonzo Mourning and Gerry McNamara.

Remember Pearl’s shot to upset G-Town in ‘85? Or Thompson’s “Manley Field House is officially closed” comment? McNamara’s buzzer-beater in ‘04? All those postseason clashes from decades ago? It’s certainly a rich history.

Autry and Cooley are clearly committed to renewing the rivalry moving forward. In 2022, both programs agreed to adding another home-and-home which included this year’s game. While unannounced and still in “to be determined” status, getting to the 100th game marker seems like a given.

But why stop there?

Syracuse and Georgetown face a long road ahead if each wants to return back to the resemblance of glory from years ago. Even with both coaches new to the scene, it’s safe to say the Orange versus the Hoyas rivalry is in good hands.

“As long as I’m the head coach, I want to play Syracuse every year,” Cooley said.