Bradley’s Buzz: Jim Boeheim’s final act is a fine whine

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim reacts during the second half against Wake Forest in the second round of the ACC Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim reacts during the second half against Wake Forest in the second round of the ACC Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images/TNS)

Jim Boeheim went out his way. He went out whining.

Except for two post-college years spent playing for the Scranton Miners of the Eastern Basketball League, Boeheim is a Syracuse lifer. He played there, serving as backcourt partner to Dave Bing, the NBA’s No. 1 draftee in 1966. He became Roy Danforth’s assistant in 1969. He became head coach when Danforth retired in 1976.

In its second road game under the new man, Syracuse ventured into a packed Freedom Hall – the crowd, yours truly included, gathered to see Darrell Griffith, the nation’s best freshman – and upset No. 7 Louisville. Come March, in its first NCAA tournament game under Boeheim, the Orange felled Tennessee and closed the Bernie (Bernard King) and Ernie (Grunfeld) Show. So yeah, the guy could coach.

His 2-3 zone – he spent his summers lecturing at coaching clinics – was a great equalizer, especially in the crucible of March. A favored opponent would miss a few jump shots and suddenly it was 10 points down and the rim had shrunk to the size of a dime. It happened to North Carolina, the Smiths (Dean and Kenny) and J.R. Reid in 1987. It happened to Indiana, Tom Crean and Victor Oladipo in 2013.

The flipside was that, on a day when the opponent wasn’t missing, the Orange were helpless. A 12-17 Georgia Tech team went to Syracuse 11 days ago and made 18 of 40 treys, winning by 20 after leading by 28. Asked why he didn’t switch defenses, Boeheim – in his 47th season as head coach – said, “We don’t have another defense.”

That was part of Boeheim’s charm, not that he went out of his way to be Mr. Warmth. (He interviewed a prospective assistant while the job-seeker – Rick Pitino – was on his honeymoon.) He didn’t care what anybody else thought. When he described Greensboro, N.C., the city in which his latest league had its headquarters, as being of “no value,” he didn’t think that maybe the folks who’d come to Brooklyn to work that year’s ACC tournament might be miffed.

Boeheim, see, was a Big East guy. He’d taken Pearl Washington and faced down Georgetown when it had Patrick Ewing. He’d won the league tournament in Madison Square Garden when Gerry McNamara made every shot he threw up and led the unranked Orange to four victories over four nights, three against ranked teams, by an aggregate margin of eight points.

Never mind that the Big East of that manifestation collapsed because much of its membership didn’t play football. Never mind that the ACC has a bit of history itself. Big East Boeheim said he knew where the good restaurants in Providence, R.I., were. As for Clemson, S.C., he said: “I guess they’ve got a couple of Denny’s.”

In 2015, the NCAA ordered Syracuse to forfeit 101 wins for academic impropriety over eight years. (Not a small sample size, you’ll note.) Boeheim drew a nine-game suspension. He should have been grateful to keep his job. Being Boeheim, he took umbrage, saying, “The (infractions) committee chose to ignore the efforts I have undertaken over the past 37 years to promote an atmosphere of compliance.”

Boeheim is a Hall of Famer, but his final seven seasons weren’t Hall-acious. Syracuse was 66-64 in ACC regular-season play, 5-6 in the league tournament. Last month, Boeheim accused Wake Forest, Pitt and Miami of “buying” their teams via NIL. He apologized a day later, saying it was “never my intent” to say what he’d said, though he’d spoken the phrase “bought a team” three times.

As another tepid season wound down, Boeheim became testier than usual. He’s 78. Speculation about his retirement has circulated for years. In February, he told ESPN, “I can do whatever I want.” After Syracuse lost its ACC tournament opener to Wake Forest on Wednesday, he said, “It’s up to the university.” Got that?

Within the hour, the university released a statement that read, “As his 47th season coaching his alma mater comes to an end, so too does his storied career at Syracuse.” Adrian Autry, long Boeheim’s assistant, was now the Orange’s coach.

What happened? Did Boeheim resign or was he fired? We don’t know. We do know he exited in character, saying just before Syrcause announced his leaving, “The university hasn’t offered me anything” in the way of a post-coaching job.

This prompted five rapid-fire questions from the assembled media. Was he quitting? Did he want to come back as coach? “I don’t know,” he said.

Then, finally: “You’re asking the wrong guy.”

This transpired in Greensboro, the city of no value. Karma, baby.

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