The end of an era and why the timing couldn’t be more perfect
Since 1976, we have been graced with that big, bald, beautiful, nose-picking man who night after night had led our Orange Army into battle. Through Big East brawls and overtime marathons to ACC shootouts and instant classics, he has been there through it all and we’ve all loved Syracuse just a little bit more because of him. But it has come to that time in his career where he’s decided to take his bow and ride out on the highest note he possibly can — a fair shot at the NCAA tournament this March. But as us Orange faithful look back on the career and coaching styles of James Arthur Boeheim, we find ourselves realizing four reasons that may indicate why now, more than ever, is the best time to hang em up.
Reason #1: The Zone is old and the game is changing
Yes, we all appreciate the zone. We all see the possibility of effectiveness in expanding their zone and their bottom line to close out on shooters faster and push the opposing offense away from the basket. However, the art of breaking the zone has become too familiar for too many different teams. With the emerging importance of a long range shooting ability in a player, teams are often more equipped than ever with kids who have the ability to shoot any team out of a zone. The successes of players like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, and even Buddy Heild at the collegiate level have indicated that this game is transforming into more of a small ball feel, and has no intentions of turning back anytime soon. This, along with the spreading philosophy of ‘inside-out/high-low’ offense when facing a zone has led to what once was the secret to Syracuse success becoming the nation’s guide to winning at The Dome. While I understand that Boeheim plans to stay in-house for his replacement, Otto’s Army can only hope that the future holds some alterations in Orange defensive philosophies.
Reason #2: Big time recruits don’t want to play in a zone.
It’s a sad realization but the college-to-pro journey is just not what it used to be. The NCAA has simply become a formality for these athletes, who’ve come in bigger, stronger, more athletic, and more pro-ready than ever. The goal is no longer to gain game time experience and progress each year in hopes of a shot at the Final Four, but rather to showcase just enough ability in one season of play or less to catch the eye of an NBA scout (see Kyrie Irving, Nerlens Noel, Zach LaVine, and many many more). While this system has benefited many of those who utilized it, it has complicated the job of Boeheim and his scouts. How does one convince a 5-star recruit that sitting back in a slow-paced zone with little chance for steals and run-outs is the best option for promoting his draft stock and proving his worth to pro scouts?
The truth of the matter is that Jim Boeheim is no John Calipari. He is not the type of coach to rotate wholesale recruits year in and year out. Since 2003, Boeheim has coached three players who have only spent one year with the team (‘Melo, Greene, Ennis). Calipari? Almost twenty since 2008.He has never been the one-and-done, and no one is asking him to be. However with the current stepping stone system the NCAA has adapted, Boeheim has not attracted the talent to be a consistent threat come March. The Orange have not boasted an ESPN Top 10 Recruiting Class Ranking since 2010, a span that has only produced one Final Four appearance in 2013. Syracuse certainly hasn’t fallen to mediocre status because of the change, but they most certainly haven’t been competing with the Kentucky’s and Duke’s of the world in terms of recruiting.
Maybe this reason is associated with the first but something has to give. Orange Nation can only hope that Boeheim’s successor sees the unfortunate correlation between lack of success in the zone and declining recruiting class rankings.
Reason #3: This might be the best Syracuse for awhile.
Ugh. This one especially hurts. Believe it or not, the 18–10 (8–7) 9th place team in the ACC might be the best Syracuse team us Orange faithful see for quite some time. With the combination of senior leadership from Gbinije and Cooney, an inside presence from Coleman and Roberson, and the young talent and shooting from Richardson and Lydon, things are basically as good as they are going to get. We uncharacteristically live and die by the 3, and somehow we’ve managed to stay afloat in NCAA Tournament talks — something that should be seen as a success in the eyes of Orange fans. Following the end of the season, we will be left without a proven floor general and defender, as well as one of our main offensive weapons. Can we really imagine Boeheim going through another rebuilding phase and all the growing pains that go with it?
Realistically, it’s now or never for Boeheim’s tournament dreams. The already declining Orange are only projected to continue to nosedive in the conference standings these upcoming years, and Boeheim deserves to go out with one last fair shot at the Final Four more than anyone else to ever coach the game.
Reason #4: The NCAA blows.
This seems self-explanatory to any informed Syracuse fan. It has been painful for us to watch the NCAA butcher the never-ending, never fully explained investigation that led to the complete defamation of one of the greatest to ever roam the sidelines. His 108 vacated wins has been hard for everyone to swallow, and has become a sad, looming clouds of Syracuse basketball over the past two years. It is a shame that we will never discuss the possibilities of #Boeheim1k, but with the NCAA coming down with one of the most irrational iron fists of all time, the bowing out of Boeheim before it gets any worse has become inevitable.
Regardless of the win count, recruiting class ranking, national rankings, conference standings, or anything else, Jim Boeheim will forever go down as the Father of Syracuse Basketball. He will be a presence missed and an act impossible to follow. But with the current state of the game — both on and off the court, the prospective outlook for Syracuse basketball, as well as the skewed standing of Boeheim in the eyes of the NCAA, it has become clear that the time has come for one of the greatest to ever do it to call it quits. While we will always cherish the Boeheim Era, we the Orange faithful can only hope that we will look forward and make the adjustments necessary to thrust Syracuse back into the upper echelon of college basketball.