December 8, 2023

Westside People

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Jim Boeheim is out as Syracuse head coach after 47 seasons

“I am not Derek Jeter. There will be no farewell tour,” he told Sports Illustrated in 2015.

That same year Syracuse hired Mike Hopkins, a former Syracuse player who was an assistant coach at the time, as head coach-in-waiting. Two years later, Hopkins got tired of waiting and took the head coaching position in Washington, where he continued to coach this season.

“He gave his heart and soul to that school. I’m still amazed there’s no statue,” said Hopkins, who served as an assistant under Boeheim for 22 seasons. “You think of Syracuse University, and you think of Jim Boeheim.”

Boeheim has had stars passing through from time to time—most notably Pearl Washington, Derek Coleman, and Carmelo Anthony—but his adherence to game zone defense was as defining a Syracuse basketball trait as his team’s orange uniform. He was known for zone defense where Bob Knight was known as the action offense or Pete Carrell was known as the Princeton offense.

“To have — just to have faith in a territory you never get out of,” New Mexico coach Richard Pitino, son of Rick, said of Boeheim’s commitment to the tactic. “I mean when someone hits a No. 3 vs. area, I get out of that thing pretty quickly.”

As college basketball evolved into a more open game, the Orange stuck firmly in the region and when their teams were good, they often confused NCAA tournament opponents they weren’t used to seeing. As a No. 11 seed, Syracuse upset San Diego State and then West Virginia to advance to the Round of 16 during the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

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It was a particularly enjoyable run for Boeheim since his youngest son, Buddy, was the star of the team.

Boeheim also coached his son Jimmy, and when both players had exhausted their NCAA eligibility, some fans thought it would be the perfect time for their father to get out as well. But Boeheim said instead that he would continue and indicated on occasion that he could train into his 80s.