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Benjamin: ‘Orange is the New Orange’: Creating the perfect Jim Boeheim film

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What would a movie of SU men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim's life look like? Movie columnist Erik Benjamin sounds off.

One of my favorite nicknames for the Syracuse basketball team is “Cardiac ‘Cuse,” as it highlights all of the excitement that comes along with following the team. There have been some incredibly high highs, and some unbelievably low lows. As the drama unfolded with Mike Hopkins’ departure, it hit me that my time following Syracuse basketball has felt like a movie. Then I started to wonder what Jim Boeheim’s time at Syracuse would look like as a movie.

Although the film could be titled “Bleeding Orange” after Jim Boeheim’s best-selling book, we should separate the film from Boeheim’s book so it can simply stand on its own. Thus, I propose the title “Orange is the New Orange,” as it plays into the pop culture phenomenon of “Orange is the New Black” and describes how Boeheim’s teams and coaching style has evolved over the four decades he has been at the helm, reinventing itself as the game has changed.

Now that we have a title, let’s get this thing made. For the screenplay, a guy named Michael H. Weber, a noted screenwriter and S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications alumnus, would be hired. While he has never written a sports film before, he’s had success with emotional fare like “(500) Days of Summer” and “The Fault in Our Stars,” and most recently, the upcoming “The Disaster Artist,” which is getting amazing buzz. He’s a big basketball fan, and has a character-based writing style that could really bring some favorite Syracuse icons to life.

We’re going to want to go for a director who captures the excitement of Syracuse basketball, the emotion of the characters and the legacy of Jim Boeheim. The perfect choice is Ron Howard, who has a history of making informative, emotional and captivating films. He can often be a little sentimental, but when it comes to sports, sentimentality is an essential aspect of success. Howard understands scope and action, but can also capture the intimacy of a moment.

With a script by Michael H. Weber and Ron Howard at the helm, the most exciting thing is left to sort out — the cast.

Let’s start with Boeheim. This is an extremely hard role to cast, as you want someone who can capture Boeheim’s intensity, but also his personality off the court. This might be a controversial choice, but I’m going with Kevin Spacey. Yes, he’s a bit younger than Boeheim at the moment, but makeup could be utilized as needed. He has similar facial features as Boeheim, two Oscars to his name and certainly would have no trouble adapting his behavior to match our coach. He is an actor that can be both inspirational and terrifying, so he’s our perfect choice.

Besides Boeheim, the next largest character in this film will likely be Mike Hopkins, so his casting is essential. For Hopkins, we’re going to go with Michael Shannon. Sure, he doesn’t have the hairline of Hopkins, but he has the same determination in his eyes and is an age-appropriate match.

For the chancellors over Boeheim’s tenure, Jamie Lee Curtis would be enlisted to capture the spunk of Nancy Cantor and Matthew Broderick to personify Kent Syverud. Broderick might not be an identical match, but he can convey similar mannerisms, matching Syverud’s interesting combination of charm and shyness. While he would barely be in the movie, Terry Crews would breathe life into Dino Babers, simply because Babers is a man that is, like Boeheim, destined to grace the big screen. For players like Carmelo Anthony and Fab Melo, the best approach is finding some unknowns, and making them stars.

While Syracuse personnel are extremely important to this film, we also will include some characters from Boeheim’s life. For his wife Juli, the perfect choice would be Connie Britton.  Finally, to play Boeheim’s longtime rival and best friend Coach K, we will go unconventional and choose Bill Murray, who I could see winning an Oscar for this role. We will need some black hair dye, but Murray could find Coach K’s mannerisms while also having a personality that draws the eye to the screen.

There would be a ton of material to cover in this film, so it may be hard to figure out what should and should not be included. But no matter what, the story of the program and the coach is an amazing tale. There’s drama, excitement and triumph. The only thing that still needs to be determined is the ending, and I have a feeling it will be a long time until we find that out.

Erik Benjamin is a junior television, radio and film major. His column appears weekly in Pulp. He can be reached at ebenjami@syr.edu or on Twitter @embenjamin14.

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