Detroit-Syracuse Preview

Jim Boeheim has experienced a lot since the dawn of the new

century – prostate surgery, a national championship, induction into

the Basketball Hall of Fame, a pair of Olympic gold medals, the

firing of a lifelong friend on his staff.

Yet even though it’s been 50 years since he enrolled as a

freshman at Syracuse, the 68-year-old Boeheim just keeps rolling

along, as intense and focused as ever in his 37th year at his alma

mater, worried only about the next game when he’s not recruiting or

raising money for cancer research.

“He hasn’t lost a beat,” said Boeheim’s wife, Juli. “Jim’s got

an intense edge at all times.”

One that has brought him to the doorstep of another milestone –

900 victories. Sometime soon – the first chance comes against

Detroit on Monday night in the Carrier Dome on the court that bears

his name – Boeheim will join a most elite fraternity, one with only

two other members – Mike Krzyzewski (936) and Bob Knight (902), the

only men’s coaches in Division I history to win that many

games.

“The sooner we get through it, the better we’ll be able to focus

on the season,” said Boeheim, 899-304 for his career after his

third-ranked Orange (9-0) beat Canisius 85-61 on Saturday night.

“This team does not care about how many wins I have. They care

about getting the next win. That’s it. Everything else does not

matter. It really doesn’t. I’m happy I’m still here.”

Even though his Orange have won more games the past three

seasons than during any three-year stretch in his career and

Boeheim’s program is probably better than it’s ever been, crossing

another threshold on the victory list isn’t fodder for the dinner

table.

“We don’t even mention it at home,” Juli said.

One of a vanishing breed, Boeheim has been head coach at

Syracuse since 1976 and has never had a desire to go anywhere else.

His first victory as a college coach was against Harvard in

Springfield, Mass., a 75-48 triumph on Nov. 26, 1976.

“We were behind at halftime, not playing well at all,” Boeheim

recalled. “We just kind of went to something real simple

offensively and outscored them about 20-something to six in the

second half.”

After taking over for Roy Danforth, Boeheim’s Orange went 26-4

in his rookie season, losing in the second round of the NCAA

tournament.

“We were a good eastern program,” Boeheim said. “At that time,

St. Bonaventure, Holy Cross, and all those programs were just as

good as we were. We were a little bit better at that point in time,

but not much. There was really not much difference between all the

eastern schools.”

Boeheim has transformed what was a sound program – Syracuse was

128-71 in eight seasons under Danforth, going 23-9 and reaching its

first Final Four in the 1974-75 season – and taken the Orange into

the rarefied air of three national title games, winning in 2003 in

New Orleans.

Boeheim holds the Division I record for most 20-win seasons at

34, has 48 NCAA tournament victories (fifth all-time and one behind

Jim Calhoun) in 29 trips, and tops the Big East with 402 wins.

And, clearly, he’s in a better place than he was a year ago when

former assistant Bernie Fine was fired amid allegations of sexual

abuse against two former ball boys. No charges were filed, and last

month federal authorities dropped their investigation. Fine has

steadfastly maintained his innocence.

Boeheim defended his lifelong friend and endured criticism and

scrutiny, with some activists calling for him to be fired. He was

questioned repeatedly during news conferences about the case and

was sued for defamation by the ball boys (the case was thrown

out).

Through it all, Boeheim simply did what he’s done for nearly

four decades – prepare for the next game. The Orange responded by

winning a school-record 34 games, narrowly missing another trip to

the Final Four.

“He has so much knowledge and experience. I write in a journal

the way that he handles certain situations,” said longtime

assistant Mike Hopkins, who performs the job Fine held, coaching

the big men. “Last year was 10 years of education in one, managing

and motivating – Cool Hand Luke.

“Every year you think you’ve seen it all, and last year you saw

a whole new chapter just in terms of what a great leader he

is.”

Boeheim has been part of Krzyzewski’s staff for the past two

Summer Olympics, and the two have formed a solid friendship.

“Jim is one of the great coaches of all time, and he’s an even

better man,” Krzyzewski said. “It will be an amazing accomplishment

when he reaches 900 wins. What is even more amazing is that he’s

done that at one school. Jim Boeheim and Syracuse University are

synonymous. He has built one of the great brands in college

basketball, one that has withstood the sport’s most unrelenting

test – the test of time.”

Knight’s Indiana team deprived Boeheim and the Orange of a

national championship in 1987 when Keith Smart’s baseline jumper

with 4 seconds left gave the Hoosiers a one-point victory.

Knight could be courtside on the ESPN broadcast crew calling the

New Year’s Eve game in the Carrier Dome against Central

Connecticut. If the Orange remain undefeated and beat Central

Connecticut, Boeheim would pass Knight on that day.

And despite what the coach says, the Orange are stoked for

Monday night’s game.

“I can’t wait until he gets to 900,” sophomore guard Michael

Carter-Williams said. “He’s been through the ups and downs with the

school. He wants all of us to be great and to play to our

potential. I think that’s what makes him so great.”

Added senior Brandon Triche, who leads the team in scoring:

“He’s one of the best motivators. Sometimes, he’s tough on you, but

he’s motivated me to be the player I am.”

A celebration seems likely against Detroit, which has won four

straight overall but has lost all four of its road games and has

dropped 20 in a row against ranked opponents.

The Titans (6-4) are led by coach Ray McCallum and his son, who

has the same name and is averaging 19.4 points and 4.9 assists.