The career of the longest-tenured men’s college basketball coach in the country ended Wednesday, with Syracuse announcing Jim Boeheim’s Hall of Fame career in Central New York came to a close after 47 seasons as the program’s head coach.
The 78-year-old Boeheim had been with the Orange in three different roles for 57 of the past 60 years. He enrolled at Syracuse in 1962 and was part of the basketball team all four years, beginning as a freshman walk-on and eventually starting all 28 games as a senior, helping lead the Orange to the NCAA tournament. He had a brief professional career before returning to Syracuse as a graduate assistant in 1969. Boeheim hadn’t left at any point in the past 54 years.
As the program’s head coach, Boeheim guided the Orange to five Final Four appearances and the 2003 national championship. Remarkably, he never had a season below .500 until 2021-22, when Syracuse went 16-17.
He was synonymous with the rise — and fall — of the old Big East, with Syracuse winning 10 Big East regular-season titles and five Big East tournament championships. The Orange were then one of three programs to leave the league for the ACC in 2013, along with Notre Dame and Pittsburgh.
The Orange never quite reached their previous peak following the conference change, but Boeheim built a late-career reputation for making surprising March runs after inconsistent regular-season performances. In 2015-16, the Orange tied for ninth in the ACC — before making a run to the Final Four. In 2017-18, they were below .500 in ACC play before going to the Sweet 16. Similarly, they made the Sweet 16 in 2021 after an eighth-place ACC finish.
Perhaps Boeheim’s most identifiable coaching trait was the 2-3 zone. Syracuse has played zone for most of Boeheim’s career, starting with deploying it on certain possessions and in certain games for the first half of his career and slowly increasing its use as his career progressed.
Outside of his time at Syracuse, Boeheim was also a staple on USA Basketball’s coaching staff, as an assistant coach under Mike Krzyzewski. He won six gold medals and two bronze medals.
PTI reflects on Jim Boeheim’s legacy at Syracuse
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It wasn’t all positive during Boeheim’s 50-plus-year career at Syracuse. He was suspended for nine games of the 2015-16 campaign following an NCAA investigation into the university’s men’s basketball and football programs, a probe that also caused the school to vacate 101 wins. Even without those victories, Boeheim is sixth on the all-time wins list — with those wins, he would be fourth.
Boeheim was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.
Simply put, Boeheim is Syracuse men’s basketball. He took a program in a region not known for producing high-level basketball players and turned it into a national powerhouse.
Before we begin the Adrian “Red” Autry era, let’s look back at the 10 biggest moments of Boeheim’s career.
10. The last NCAA tournament win, March 21, 2021: Boeheim’s final win in the field of 68 came in the round of 32 against West Virginia in Indianapolis. Buddy Boeheim paced the Orange with 25 points. Syracuse lost in the Sweet 16 to Houston.
9. “The referees pure and simple took the game away from us,” March 11, 1984: In the 1984 Big East title game, referee Dick Paparo appeared to signal initially that Georgetown‘s Michael Graham was being ejected. However, Graham stayed in the game, the Hoyas won in overtime and Boeheim was not happy. “Michael Graham in front of 19,000 people punched my player,” he told the media after the game. “Georgetown’s got a great basketball team, but today the best team did not win. Thank you.”
8. Reaching the national title game, March 30, 1987: With a rotation featuring Sherman Douglas, Rony Seikaly, Greg Monroe, Derrick Coleman, Howard Triche and Stephen Thompson, Syracuse did not lack for talent in Boeheim’s 11th season. That season came to a close in the national championship game when Indiana‘s Keith Smart hit the winning shot for the Hoosiers.
7. The first career win, Nov. 26, 1976: A 32-year-old Boeheim recorded his first win as head coach at the Civic Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, when Syracuse defeated Harvard 75-48. “In the second half, we played more zone defense to force them to shoot from the outside,” Boeheim told reporters after the game. “It worked.”
6. “Six in the City,” March 12, 2009: After six overtimes, Boeheim owned a 127-117 win over his rival Jim Calhoun and UConn in the 2009 Big East quarterfinals. The game started Thursday night and ended at 1:22 a.m. on Friday morning. The Orange won another overtime game the following night before bowing out against Louisville in the finals.
5. Winning the first-ever Big East tournament, March 1, 1980: With a rotation featuring Roosevelt Bouie and Louis Orr, Syracuse defeated Georgetown 87-81 in the first Big East tournament. The event was played at the Providence Civic Center. In the NCAA tournament, the Orange beat Villanova (not yet a Big East member) before losing to Iowa.
4. Zone defense at its peak, March 21-30, 2013: When Syracuse was bracketed on the No. 4 line in the 2013 tournament, it marked the lowest seed the Orange had received in five years. Nevertheless, Boeheim’s team proceeded to make its deepest tournament run in 10 years. Syracuse held its first four tournament opponents to 15% shooting on their 3-pointers and reached the Final Four before losing to Michigan.
3. Reaching the Final Four as a double-digit seed, April 2, 2016: Syracuse closed its regular season by losing four of its last five and then was eliminated from the ACC tournament by midafternoon on Wednesday. No one expected anything from this No. 10 seed. Then Malachi Richardson and Michael Gbinije came up big in victories over Dayton, Middle Tennessee, Gonzaga and Virginia before the Orange fell to North Carolina in the Final Four.
2. Overtime in the Sweet 16, March 22, 1996: In one of the most thrilling NCAA tournament finishes ever, Syracuse defeated Georgia 83-81 in overtime in the 1996 Sweet 16. Jason Cipolla hit a jumper from the left wing to tie the Bulldogs in regulation, and John Wallace hit the winning 3 for the Orange in the extra session. Syracuse advanced to the national title game before losing to Kentucky 76-67.
1. Winning it all, April 7, 2003: Before an age requirement was in place as an NBA rule, Carmelo Anthony averaged a 22-10 double-double as a Syracuse freshman. In the NCAA tournament, Anthony and the No. 3 seed Orange defeated two No. 1 seeds from the Big 12 (Oklahoma and Texas) before facing Kansas in the national title game. Hakim Warrick blocked a potential tying corner 3 by KU’s Michael Lee to seal the 81-78 win.