SYRACUSA, New York. When Jim Boheim gets hungry after home games, he picks up the phone and calls his favorite restaurant, Saint Urban, who always agrees to work late until he comes.
Should the Syracuse Orange have a successful streak, Boheim will delay his arrival to enjoy a celebratory moment and mingle with fans who still regard the veteran coach with five Final Fours and 10 Big East titles as king in this city of about 142,000 people. But last season saw some more calm and stoic late nights as the program struggled with the first losing record in Boheim’s 46-year tenure.
“If they win, it will be a great dinner,” said Adam Veitsman, Boheim’s best friend and program assistant who often accompanies him. “If this is a loss, then this is the worst dinner, because we just sit and are silent. He doesn’t say anything, you understand?”
While rumors of the retirement of the 77-year-old Syracuse men’s basketball coach have dragged on for years, they have never seemed stronger than they are now, as the 2022–23 season is the 20th anniversary of the 2003 Boheim National Championship with Carmelo Anthony & Co. . — fits. However, the more pressing question for the program, which has been led by a Hall of Fame coach since 1976, is how will Syracuse move forward in the new chapter of men’s college basketball without Boheim?
It all starts with Boheim, who will have to convince the recruits that Syracuse basketball will keep the fan base that has consistently filled all 35,000-odd seats at the JMA Wireless Dome (formerly Carrier Dome), the largest basketball arena on campus, going. in the country.
“Before moving on, he needs to make sure Syracuse are in a good place where they can continue to be successful,” said Erik Devendorf, Boheim’s standout defenseman from 2005 to 2009 and a former assistant. “Will it be the same? No. My man has been doing this for 45 years. So it will be a little different.”
Boheim promised to retire in the past – see: 2015 when he announced his decision to retire by March 2018, but later changed his mind. Just last year, he told Forbes that he would coach until he was 80. You never know for sure when it comes to Boheim.
Sitting in his office in July, Boheim says the day of his departure is approaching, but he will only take the step when he is confident that Syracuse can handle the changes he has already communicated to his loved ones.
“I think he almost loves it now more than ever,” said Jimmy Boheim, one of his sons and a starter last season. “I know he won’t train a day longer than he feels it. He wouldn’t shortchange his players or his fans.”
But the retirements of Jay Wright (Villanova), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), and Roy Williams (NC) over the past two years have left Boheim without many college basketball peers. All three coaches suggested that their interest in adapting to the new era of collegiate sports, which now includes the NIL and the transfer portal, was limited.
Boheim said he would not allow any changes to force him to resign. But he also admits he won’t be trying to attract elite transfers with big NIL deals.
He does not speak like a man who intends to stay here too long to watch this new climate develop.
“People have been asking me this for 15 years,” he said. “Well, 15 years ago, if I said it would be pretty soon, I would be a liar. I think I’m actually pretty close to it. But I would never leave because of this or that.”
Don’t be fooled by North Carolina’s success in Hubert Davis’ first season at the helm since Williams retired when he led the team to the 2022 national title game.
Schools often struggle in the years that follow the replacement of a longtime coach. When Guy Lewis retired in 1986 after 30 years in Houston, the Cougars won just one conference championship through 2019. The NCAA Tournament has been around for almost 20 years. Mike Woodson is the fifth head coach to be hired by Indiana since Bob Knight was fired in 2000. Some argue that UCLA is still looking for a suitable successor to John Wooden, who won 10 national titles in 12 seasons: The Bruins have played only two Final Fours in the two decades since retiring in 1975.
For Syracuse, the impact of the high-profile program—and the weight of the work that Boheim has held since 1976—reaches far beyond campus.
At a regional basketball tournament held at the SRC Arena in Syracuse in July, the parking lots and stands were packed with fans in orange and white. As Boheim entered the building to view the aptly named Boheim Army, a team founded by former players from Syracuse, the arena erupted in applause and cheers.
Game nights in Syracuse will make you feel like you’ve stumbled across college basketball’s biggest family reunion. Former players often return to the city to live close to campus and support their school.
Boeheim built this community. He also did not leave the area. Coming from high school just over 50 miles away, he joined the basketball team in 1962 and eventually became team captain. Even after graduation, when he played semi-professional basketball from 1966 to 1969, he lived in the city and assisted former head coaches Fred Lewis and Roy Danforth as an alumnus assistant.
“I never left,” Boheim said. “I am the only coach that has ever done this. People are returning. But this is my 60th year.”
The 20 years since Boheim led the team to its only national title have been marked by ups and downs. During this time, the Orange reached the Final Four twice. And until the end of the 2021/22 season, Beheim didn’t have a single losing season with Syracuse. The NCAA cut the program from 101 wins in the wake of the 2015 academic scandal, a move unfolding in the midst of an ongoing decline that includes seven seventh or lower finishes in league games since Syracuse joined the ACC in 2013. As it became clear at the end of last season. Syracuse will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years, skeptics have grown louder on social media and called for an end to Boheim’s reign.
But Boheim’s many supporters consider him an icon that turned a rival school in upstate New York and an oasis of the city of the same name.
It has a national title that only 12 programs have earned since 2001. He also helped produce 12 first-round picks in the same period.
Boheim’s eventual successor will be tasked with bringing that program back into those fertile waters in a new chapter of college basketball. Syracuse supporters have recently followed this trend and created the NIL collective, Foundation 315, to help raise money to distribute to the school’s athletes.
“I think it will be very important for fans to understand that the NIL era has changed a lot,” said Tony DeSorbo, co-founder of the collective. “It means that as a fan base, as a community, we have to support this and we have to support them.”
On a larger scale, Boheim’s departure could mean the end of an era when coaches ran a major program for decades. In schools, it is more convenient to change coaches, as players do through the transfer portal. Coaches themselves are more likely than ever to make a few changes over the course of their careers and retire earlier than ever as a result of mounting pressure at work.
In this post-Boheimian era, the next coach in Syracuse—or any school at all—may be lucky enough to last a few years without coming under the scrutiny of their program and fans.
During an intense summer practice, first-team assistant coach Adrian Autry blew his whistle and spread his arms wide.
“You have to cut it like this,” said Autry, who played for Beheim in the early 1990s.
Boheim has increasingly delegated authority to his assistants, so Autry and other staff members are, in practice, the most active voices. For most of this session, Boheim walked to the side, watching. He didn’t talk much until he stopped training because he didn’t like the energy of some of his players.
“You can’t run around the court with your head down like that,” he told them. “If you refuse the basket, you must forget about it. Must”.
He then returned to the sideline and asked a few patrons, “So, do you think we have something?”
There have been rumors that Autry could change his former coach, but Boheim is still tight-lipped about his assistant. Hiring a school-related coach is a strategy that has worked in some schools and backfired in others.
“I think there are benefits if the coach was there, they played there, they coached there, they understand the culture of the faculty, the culture of the community, the culture of the university,” John Wildhack, Syracuse Athletic Director and also an alumnus of the school, said Sportzshala. “But that is not a requirement in and of itself. This is not a requirement.
“We were lucky. We have three really amazing assistant coaches.”
This season will play a decisive role in the final transition to a new head coach. Boheim said he likes this group of players. Joe Girard (13.3 points per game, 40% of 3 in 2021/22) and Jesse Edwards, the 6-foot-11 standout who shot 69% last season before suffering a wrist injury in early February at the end of the season, will anchor a Syracuse team that is reminiscent of Boheim’s athletic, high-energy teams that have historically interrupted opposition attacks with a 2-3 zone.
However, with every game this year, the question will remain: how much is left for Boheim?
“If you love something, you love it,” Boheim said. “Just because you’re getting older, it doesn’t go away. Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you can’t do it. I’m just talking. I don’t need to exercise.”
An equally important and more difficult question for a school that has not had to think about a world without him for a long time will follow: what next?
“We are a strong program, a strong basketball community and…