Andrew Renneisen | Staff PhotographerMen's Basketball
Boeheim on cusp of joining elite company with 900th career win
The NCAA as it stands today was founded in 1906. Thousands of coaches have coached Division I basketball in thousands more games. But just two have managed 900 wins.
On Monday night, Jim Boeheim can become the third, joining Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight.
After Saturday night’s 85-61 victory against Canisius, Boeheim told reporters that his players “don’t care about how many wins I get,” rather they were focused on the next win and nothing more. While his No. 4 Orange (9-0) preferred to focus on simply playing basketball, the enormity of the occasion was hardly lost on them. Though the numbers themselves are hardly the obsession of his players – 34 20-win seasons, nine regular season and five Big East tournament titles and 29 NCAA Tournament appearances all in 36 seasons – Boeheim’s illustrious, but unfinished legacy is admittedly part of why they play for SU.
“It’s a team, it’s a winning tradition, winning program, something everyone wants to be a part of,” senior forward James Southerland said.
That doesn’t mean the SU players will hear about the impending milestone outside of conversations with media members. Southerland and Brandon Triche each made their collegiate debuts Nov. 9, 2009 in Boeheim’s 800th win against Albany. They’d heard about the approaching 800-win mark in the buildup to the game, but Boeheim never mentioned it.
“We won the game, we was all ready to get off the court,” Southerland said. “And then it was ‘Wait wait wait, 800 wins’ so we were all standing there, we was all on TV. Everyone was happy.”
Players, members of Boeheim’s coaching staff and family posed for pictures at center court and the head coach was presented with a framed, oversized jersey with ‘800’ and his last name on the back.
Freshman center DaJuan Coleman grew up in Syracuse, watching Boeheim’s Orange teams win again and again—he’s never had a losing season. So when the SU head coach says his team doesn’t care about his wins total, he’s not all right.
“It means a lot,” said Coleman, the center who graduated high school last spring less than nine miles from the Carrier Dome. “For somebody to accomplish something like that, I’d love to be a part of it. Hopefully we get the next win.”
Boeheim’s legacy is inseparable from that of the 2-3 zone. Each of Boeheim’s 899 wins meant a loss for someone else. Canisius was the most recent victim after SU’s 2-3 zone – the defense that is inseparable from the rest of his legacy – stifled the Golden Griffins into 19 turnovers and 23 points from them. CC guard Billy Baron relayed the importance of the zone from the other side of Boeheim’s success.
“That’s why Boeheim’s got 899,” Baron said. “… Even when you’re driving you’re watching their hands and stuff like that. But that’s just what makes them so good.”
Triche came to SU heralded as a local star and was thrown into a star-studded starting lineup. He committed 71 turnovers his freshman season, or one every 10:30 he spent on the floor. Triche frequently came under fire from Boeheim, but it made him the player he is today. And that kind of criticism is what makes Boeheim unique, Triche said, 48 hours before his coach’s first shot at 900.
“I think the biggest thing is how he motivates his guys. You have to have some tough skin being a player under Coach Boeheim,” Triche said. “… Sometimes you don’t see because you’re 18, 19 years old, you’re immature, you don’t really know that it’s motivation.”
Regardless of how or why he’s won, the Hall of Famer insists he’s not thinking about his next milestone. Instead, it’s the progress of this team in this season, and whatever stream of wins it can provide.
Said Boeheim: “No one wants to believe me but I’m thinking nine now I’m thinking 10.”
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