The Syracuse men’s basketball season came to an end on Thursday in the ACC tournament. The Orange couldn’t hold on to their lead against the Duke Blue Devils in the second half, and they were playing without Buddy Boeheim.
The senior guard and son of Hall of Fame head coach Jim Boeheim was suspended for striking a Florida State player in the previous game. Following Thursday’s loss, questions rose about Boeheim’s future at the helm.
“I’m going to miss you guys,” Boeheim said about his sons. “These guys, you’ll miss a lot, you won’t see them, but unfortunately, you’ll see me next year.”
Buddy and his brother Jimmy are seniors, and Thursday was their final game. This would’ve been the perfect time for the elder Boeheim to hang it up. He’s 77 years old and has been the head coach at Syracuse for 46 seasons.
It’s been a glorious ride, but not always a smooth one.
Boeheim’s a college hoops coaching icon and has continued to thrive at Syracuse, despite dodging and ducking NCAA investigations, accusations of improper benefits, academic misconduct and being labeled as a coach that is as loose with the reigns as any successful sideline stalker in NCAA history.
Former Cuse star and NBA player John Wallace once told TSL that Boeheim never stressed his players about going to class or hanging out late and fully immersing themselves in the university’s notorious party atmosphere. As long as you made it to practice and showed up for the games, you were good, Wallace said.
Times have changed. The Why is Boeheim still hanging on?
All of his peers have left the game. The only coach remaining from his era, Duke’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski, is retiring at the completion of Duke’s season.
“He means more for college basketball than anybody,” said Boeheim. “What he’s done for the game, what he’s done outside the game, and what he’s done for the country’s game with the Olympics, you can’t really measure that. He has unbelievable understanding of what you have to do and say in working with people. He’s a great coach, but he’s really better at all the other things that are involved with leadership.”
Unlike Coach K, Boeheim isn’t recruiting at an elite level and Syracuse isn’t winning at an elite level either. Since joining the ACC, Syracuse finished in the top five of the conference once. They’ve only advanced to the second weekend of March Madness three times during that same time period. He had the first losing season of his career (16-17).
But Boeheim says there is a plan in place for his succession.
“I’m not going to tell you or anybody when this is going to be, (but) we have a plan in place,’’ said Boeheim. “A good plan. An iron-clad plan. It’s not my decision. I’m not naming the coach like people say all the time. I’ve had no input in any (athletic director) that’s ever been hired here, any associate AD that’s ever been hired here, even the AD that oversees basketball. I’ve never had any input into that. None.”
It’s hard to believe that Boeheim has no input when it comes to basketball decisions. Head coaches like Boeheim turn universities into their kingdoms. They have an outsized amount of power and can essentially do what they want. Like giving your grandson a preferred walk-on spot on the team or having your sons lead the team in shots and minutes.
Sports Illustrated magazine’s Pat Forde wrote the following on Boeheim:
“There is too much Boeheim going on—not just Jim coaching at age 77, but both his sons (Jimmy and Buddy) leading the team in minutes played and shots attempted. Boeheim has established himself as ruler of his own fiefdom, impervious to prior attempts to get him to retire, but it might be time for the family to move on after this season.”
Boeheim is also “chasing” his good friend Coach K on the all-time college coaching wins list and told Forbes awhile back that he hopes to coach until he’s 80.