Adrian Autry’s Rise From Harlem World To Syracuse Head Coach Is A Hoops Moment Born Of Big East Beauty

As the NCAA conference title games wrap up and we prepare for March Madness, we also say goodbye to a living legend and one of the most influential figures in the history of college basketball. Last year it was the great Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski departing the game as its all-time wins leader. 

This season, it’s another walking basketball institution, Syracuse Orangemen coach Jim Boeheim, who is finally hanging it up after 47 years dating back to the early days of the Big East explosion. He’s reached five Final Fours, sent over 20 players to the pros, won a 2003 NCAA Championship and is second all-time in wins.

Boeheim’s retirement finally opens the door for another coaching talent to take over the ’Cuse program and try to return it to prominence.

If you’ve been paying attention for the past 12 seasons, sitting next to Boeheim as an assistant was Adrian Autry, or “Red” as he’s known to friends, family and NY basketball historians. It’s a name and face that should be familiar to college basketball fans who followed the game in the early ’90s.

Now he’s the first head coach Syracuse has had since the 1970s. Boeheim got there in 1976 and didn’t get off the coaching bench until Wednesday.

Who Is Syracuse Basketball Coach 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, Angeter Redfearn, 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 abundant. On the commute home from elementary school, he’d finish his homework traveling alone on the NYC subways and buses so he could hustle 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.

And if you were around the NYC grassroots hoops scene in the late ’80s, perhaps you remember Autry doing damage 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.

Those matchups against Bobby Hurley and Terry Dehere’s New Jersey Roadrunners crew, or the loaded Gauchos squad featuring Arnold “The A-Train” Bernard, Andre McCullough, playground legends Dave Edwards and Karlton Dunkin Hines, were a hoops lover’s paradise.

Red Autry Was 1990 McDonald’s All-American: Shines At Syracuse

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’s 17-15 season coming to an end in crushing fashion on Wednesday in a 77-74 last second loss to Wake Forest in the second round of the ACC tournament, all eyes turn to Autry and the future.

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.

He ended his decorated career as one of only three players to ever lead The ‘Cuse in assists for four consecutive years.

Autry Chases Overseas Bag

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 found a home in Northern Virginia and worked as a settlement manager in the real estate business.

But like Kodak Black, 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.

He reached out to 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, D.C., AAU squad Team Takeover, while also working as an assistant at Paul VI High School in Fairfax, Virginia.

Seth Greenberg Offers Opportunity At Virginia Tech

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.

Finally, The HNIC  

A year later, Boeheim and Syracuse came calling, asking one of the school’s favorite sons to come back home. He quickly blossomed into one of the best and brightest assistant coaches in the country.

Adrian Autry has helped mentor the likes of NBA draft picks Jeramy Grant, Tyler Lydon and Chris McCollough.

Grant has become a very good NBA player, with Lydon, McCollough, CJ Fair, Tyler Robinson and Andrew White all in the G-League

Autry has been one of Boeheim’s best recruiters, as he recruited all positions but focused on coaching the forwards.

He’s been learning and preparing for this opportunity to lead his alma mater, where he ranks fifth all time in assists and sixth all time in steals.

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. Like another Big East legend from the NYC blacktops, Shaheen Holloway, Autry has executed a glorious 360.

Now holding the title of Syracuse 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-olds on the AAU scene.

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.


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