Last night, I got to go to the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, featuring my beloved Syracuse Orange in the second game, against Michigan State. (Those who don’t know me should know that my parents met at Syracuse – in a pizza place on Marshall Street – and I’ve been a fan forever. Those who do know me know that I’m a Syracuse fan, and, undoubtedly, are not surprised to learn that my parents met in a pizza place.)
A quick hoopservation about Coach Boeheim is appropriate. I’ve noted in multiple postings that I have an issue with the way we typically evaluate college coaches. Some guys have some success and are able to live off of reputation for a long while after that, even when their programs are mediocre or worse. Without naming names, I’m thinking of guys like Ben Howland, Bobby Knight, Tubby Smith, Roy Williams, and Gary Williams.
Then there are a few who just keep bringin’ it. Coach K gets plenty of praise on the internets and doesn’t need more from me. Tom Izzo doesn’t get enough praise, as far as I’m concerned, but I already wrote about him. (Here.) There aren’t many others in this group.
Well, add Boeheim to the group. Checka, checka, check it out: He won a national title in 2003, and, while he got lots of credit, people tend to think of that as Carmelo’s title. Fine. But consider what he’s done since. Carmelo left, leaving the team in the hands of Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara — yes, Gerry McNamara — and they won the Big East Tournament in ’05 and ’06. Then a team led by Jonny Flynn continued the success (Flynn wound up as the 5th overall pick in the draft when he left.)
Last year, with Flynn gone, I remember worrying that the team would fall off. But, all of a sudden, Wesley Johnson turned into an All-American, and Syracuse wound up with a #1 seed in the tournament. Then Johnson leaves (another lottery pick), but the wheels just keep on turning. Last night, I watched Syracuse pound the #6 ranked Michigan State Spartans.
One of the amazing things about it is that all of his teams play his trademark 2-3 zone defense, so it’s not like he’s just plugging in stars and watching them win. (Though even if he was doing that, he’d deserve credit for recruiting them.) This guy is actually COACHING his team to victories, simply by teaching a 2-3 zone as well as, or better than, anyone else is able to teach anything.
Kudos, Coach Boeheim!