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  • Budd Bailey

Syracuse ends an era

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

By Budd Bailey

Sometimes I like to tease my fellow reporters by explaining to them just how old I am with a simple analogy.

“I covered Jim Boeheim’s hiring at Syracuse,” I’d said.

I always figured that earned me respect, even if I was a mere reporter for the student newspaper, the Daily Orange. After all, Jim was at Syracuse forever. I’m not in that class as a survivor, but I’m giving it my best shot.

But now, Boeheim is done. That seemingly eternal link back to my college days has been broken. The university announced his retirement on Wednesday afternoon. Someone else (Adrian Autry) will be on the bench this fall for the first time since 1976 – which, if you count this way, was during the Gerald Ford Administration. In that span, Boeheim won a national championship, qualified for 35 NCAA tournaments (including five Final Fours), and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Talk about a tough act to follow.

Just for fun, I pulled out the scrapbook and found the hiring story … and did just a little editing for clarity. The headline was …

Boeheim will avoid politics as new coach

Jim Boeheim learned one important point from his internship under Roy Danforth – stay away from politics.

Danforth ran into difficulty this week with his association with (Senator) Henry Jackson’s Presidential bid. When Boeheim was asked whom he was supporting in the campaign, he replied, “Roosevelt Bouie.”

Bouie is a 6’10” high school senior from the Rochester area. It’s not that Boeheim doesn’t care about politics, but he has other priorities – foremost of which is putting together next year’s edition of the Syracuse basketball team.

Boeheim (pronounced BAY-hyme) was named coach Saturday night to conclude a sudden turn of events in the Syracuse basketball program. He replaces Danforth, who resigned earlier that afternoon.

The new coach enters the position with glowing recommendations from practically everyone. Danforth had described him as “the most qualified man for the position. He is as responsible for our success over the past six years as I am.”

Athletic Director Les Dye said Boeheim was endorsed by the team. “After talking with the players, and getting calls from former athletes who supported Coach Boeheim, I think it’s easy to see we selected the right man for the job,” he said.

Channellor Melvin Eggers added his voice to the chorus of Boeheim backers. “Because of his keen basketball mind and his knowledge of what had to be done to keep Syracuse basketball at the top, the committee quickly realized the best man for the job was right here.”

The suddenness of Boeheim’s appointment was probably due to the April 14 national letter-of-intent deadline, when the nation’s top high school senior athletes decided what college they will attend. His selection insures Syracuse’s recruits a degree of continuity from this season to next. “I’m going to his the road for the next two weeks and recruit,” Boeheim said concerning his immediate plans.

“Anytime you have a coaching change at this late date, it will affect the recruiting situation,” he continued. “But I have see all the recruits personally at least once, so it should not make that much of a difference.”

The change in coaches will hardly be noticeable on the Manley floor next season. “There’s no real difference in coaching philosophy between Roy and myself,” Boeheim said. “I plan to stress defense a little more, but that’s about it.”

Boeheim, 31, from Lyons, N.Y., played in the same Syracuse backcourt as Dave Bing, joining the varsity as a walk-on in 1964. He played for three seasons, and averaged 14.6 points per game his senior year. Boeheim was named freshman coach for the 1970-71 season, and became Danforth’s assistant the following year.

The new Orange coach said he always had his eye on the head coaching job. “I never would have taken the assistant coach’s position if I had doubts I could be a head coach,” he said.

Boeheim has verbally agreed to a three-year contract with the university. “I would not have signed a one-year contract because I wanted the opportunity to develop my own program,” he said. ”

Once recruiting season ends, Boeheim will start to search for new assistants. (Danforth’s other assistant, Tom Green, is expected to join Danforth at Tulane.) “I’ll be looking for good, solid recruiters and scouts for those positions,” Boeheim said. Mark Meadors, current junior varsity coach, is expected to apply for one of the openings.

Members of the old Manley Zoo will take heart to learn that Boeheim is a booster of the dismantled cheering section. “I think we lost a great deal when we lost the Zoo. I would like to see it brought back, if possible, and policed a little better,” he said.

(A few footnotes to this: Boeheim did get around to hiring an assistant coach after a while. His name was Rick Pitino, and he did pretty well over the next 47 years too. Roosevelt Bouie didn’t run for President, but he did land in Syracuse. He and fellow freshman Louis Orr (“Louie and Bouie” if you will) helped the program take a big step forward during their four years there. And I asked the last question at the news conference as Boeheim was stepping away from the podium: “Who are you supporting for President?” After I heard the answer, friend Larry Pantages said to me, “That’s your lead” – and he was right.)

(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB.)

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