At the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Regional Sweet 16, a lot of talk will center around the star wattage emanating from the sidelines. Among the four teams remaining that are vying for that coveted Final Four birth, three are led by Hall of Famers – Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Kansas’ Bill Self.
But look a little closer on that Syracuse bench and you’ll see Adrian Autry, or “Red” as he’s known to friends and family. It’s a name and face that should be familiar to college basketball fans who followed the game in the early ’90s.
College Basketball Narratives- Adrian Autry
He’s a New York City kid from the Martin Luther King projects who used the game to formulate and chase a dream. When he was young, his mother taught him the importance of helping others as she often welcomed friends and relatives that were struggling to stay in their apartment until their respective situations improved.
Money was scarce, but love and laughter were in abundance. On the commute home from elementary school, he’d finish his homework traveling alone on the NYC subways and buses so he could take his pill to the playground as soon as possible.
Autry played on a phenomenal high school squad at Tolentine in The Bronx that also featured the late, great Malik Sealy and high-flyer Brian Reese, who went on to win a National Championship at North Carolina in 1993.
Kevin Garnett reflects on the life of former teammate and friend Malik Sealy.
And if you were around the NYC grassroots hoops scene in the late ’80s, perhaps you remember Autry getting it in on those exceptional Riverside Church Hawks teams, playing alongside Reese, Sealy, and the No. 1 high school player in all of the land, Queens native Kenny Anderson.
College Basketball Narratives- Kenny Anderson
Those matchups against Bobby Hurley and Terry Dehere’s New Jersey Roadrunners crew, or the ill Gauchos squad featuring Arnold The A-Train Bernard, Andre McCullough, Dave Edwards and Carlton Dunkin Hines, were a hoops lover’s paradise.
Louisville, Kentucky, St. John’s, and Pitt were among the schools that recruited Autry, a smooth and steady 6-foot-4 floor general whose forte was dishing the rock and playing bulldog defense. In the 1990 McDonald’s All-American Game, playing against the likes of Grant Hill, he dished out 11 assists.
At Syracuse, he was a four-year starter at point guard. His freshman year, he led the team in assists while the Orangemen went 26-6 and won the Big East regular season title. As a sophomore, the Orange won the Big East Tournament as Autry led the squad in steals and assists.
After leading the team in steals and assists again as a junior, he averaged 17 points and six dimes per game during his final college season playing alongside Lawrence Moten and John Wallace.
And with Syracuse tipping off in Friday night’s Sweet 16 game against Duke, diehard followers of the program will undoubtedly flash back to the 1994 Sweet 16, when Autry erupted for 31 points after halftime in their overtime loss to Missouri.
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He ended his decorated career as one of only three players to ever lead The ‘Cuse in assists for four consecutive years. In the program’s record books, he still ranks fifth in career assists, sixth in career steals and eighth in minutes played.
After graduating with a degree in Speech Communications in 1994, Autry played pro ball overseas for ten years in Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Belgium, Poland and Siberia.
Being in foreign lands that presented unique language and cultural barriers, Autry internalized a valuable lesson: the less you talk the more you learn. He studied the international game, took notes from all of his coaches and picked up subtle nuances that separated the good teams from the great ones.
The kid from Harlem who once found himself ducking from random gunfire in the housing projects was now mingling with international soccer royalty and billionaire businessmen at places like the Prada mansion, casually strolling along antiquated cobblestone streets, eating gourmet meals and delicately sipping espresso at quaint cafes.
He was no longer copping the latest gear from 125th Street, but from elite Italian fashion houses. And Sundays, they were the best of all, when the European focus for the day was all about food, family and conversation.
Upon retirement, he settled in Northern Virginia and worked as a settlement manager in the real estate business.
But like Pookie in New Jack City, the allure of the game just kept calling him. As good as the life of a young, successful businessman was treating him, he needed to be back around the game that he loved.
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He reached to out the Syracuse coaches to get some advice and Boeheim advised him to get involved with a good high school or AAU program to get started. Autry eventually linked up with the formidable Washington, DC AAU squad Team Takeover, while also working as an assistant at Paul VI High School in Fairfax, Virginia.
The Virginia Tech coach at the time, current ESPN college hoops analyst Seth Greenberg, approached him about a low-level opening on his staff. The opportunity was great, but the pay was hot garbage.
Folks see the assistant coaches on the bench, but are unaware of the grind and struggle they go through.
Autry rented a small house in Blacksburg while his wife kept her job in the D.C. area to keep things afloat. The family, which then consisted of the couple’s two oldest children, would commute to see him on the weekends. His wife eventually found a job in Blacksburg, but with Autry’s paltry salary, the struggle was real.
After the 2009-10 season, Virginia Tech’s top two assistants left, including Bill Courtney, who became the head coach at Cornell. Autry was promoted and become a full-time assistant coach for the Hokies.
A year later, Boeheim and Syracuse came calling, asking one of the school’s favorite sons to come back home. Seven years later, he’s blossomed into one of the best and brightest assistant coaches in the country.
Syracuse men’s basketball assistant coach Adrian Autry discusses the Orange’s signing of Frank Howard, from Washington, DC. Watch more Syracuse Orange videos: https://www.youtube.com/suathletics Subscribe to videos from the Syracuse Orange: https://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=suathletics Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Cuse Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SyracuseOrange Follow us on Instagram: http://instagram.com/syracuseathletics Visit our Homepage: http://www.cuse.com Syracuse University is a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, a Division I NCAA intercollegiate athletic conference.
As a player, Autry succeeded because he worked at the fundamentals. His game displayed little flash, but purists were enamored with the substance of his work.
Now holding the title of Syracuse’s associate head coach, his journey continues.
He started on the playgrounds of Harlem, became a prep All-American and a college star. He cashed pro checks overseas, then started over at the bottom, coaching 13 year old’s on the AAU scene.
Now it’s only a matter of time before Autry gets a shot at running his own show, perhaps even as the head coach of the Syracuse program once Boeheim eventually retires.
Nothing was ever given to him. Adrian Autry’s earned every accolade and promotion along the way. If you’re not familiar with his name right now, no worries. You will be soon.