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!
Agreed that Boeheim gets it done for the ‘Cuse. Last year in particular was one of the better coaching performances that I can remember, that is, until the Orange’s early exit from the tournament. But what’s with the shot at Coach Roy Williams of UNC? Sure, Ol’ Roy had a tough year last year as it was the only year (other than his first at Kansas when the Jayhawks were on probation) that his team did not make the NCAA tourney. Roy still has the highest winning percentage among active coaches and has won two NCAA championships in the last six years.
TigerHeel, you are the man. Your comments always move the hoopservation along.
Fair points re Roy, but here’s the thing… the TarHeels performed so far below expectations last year that it calls into question Roy’s coaching ability. Those guys started the year ranked in the top 5, then completely fell apart. Of course, it’s possible that they were overrated to begin with, but my point is that, if Roy was coaching anything as well as Boeheim is coaching his patented 2-3 zone, you wouldn’t see a collapse like that.
I guess Carolina’s performance this year will tell us a lot about whether Roy deserves to be ranked in that elite group. If they step up, then last year can be written off as a fluke. If they don’t, then there are real questions about whether Roy can win without a dominant amount of talent on his squad.
Agreed that this year’s performance by a slower-than-I would-like improving Tar Heels team will go a long way towards restoring Roy’s suddenly tarnished image. I seem to recall Boeheim having some off years, too, and folks are quick to forget some horrid Duke teams in the mid-90s, including one that finished with a losing record.