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Jim Boeheim hangs up his sneakers after spending 47 years as the Syracuse Orange’s head coach.


Tenured coach at Syracuse University, Jim Boeheim coached his final game for the Orange last Wednesday, March 8th when they took on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. 

Jim Boeheim, one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history, spent more than 55 years on the campus of Syracuse, a place, and a city that he would always love. Boeheim grew up 57 miles away from Syracuse, in the small town of Lyons, New York. After playing basketball for his high school, he decided he wanted to continue playing in college. In 1962, Boeheim decided to attend Syracuse University and joined the men’s basketball team as a freshman, walk-on. No one expected Jim Boeheim to have the college career he did, not even himself. Scoring 745 points in his collegiate career, Boeheim was named captain his senior year and helped lead the Orange to a 22-6 record, clinching only the second NCAA Tournament play-off berth in school history. After his impressive career in college, he tossed around the idea of playing basketball professionally. The six years he played professionally for the Scranton Miners, would be the only six years that he was not at Syracuse in some way, shape, or form.

In 1969, he returned to Syracuse University where he was head coach of the university’s golf team and was hired as a graduate assistant for the men’s basketball team, where he helped the Orange reach the 1975 NCAA Tournament and for the first time in program history reach the Final Four. He would work his way up the ranks until eventually, he was named head coach of the Orange in 1976. Jim Boeheim’s coaching background was vastly different from any other legendary college basketball coach.

 The Hall of Fame level of coaching was in a way, passed down from coach to player. University of Kentucky coach and Hall of Famer, Adolph Rupp, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Hall of Famer, Dean Smith arguably two of the best to ever coach college basketball, learned from the great Forrest “Phog” Allen who coached at the University of Kansas, where he led them to 24 conference championships and three national championships. Who coached Phog Allen? Well none other than the founder of the University of Kansas men’s basketball program and the game of basketball itself, James Naismith. Roy Willams, played for Dean Smith at the University of Carolina and afterwards served as his assistant coach for ten years where he would take the knowledge he learned from Smith to Kansas where he would lead the team to 14 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, four Final Four appearances and two national championships before returning to North Carolina. Mike Krzyzewski, former head coach of the Duke Blue Devils, played for Hall of Famer Bob Knight at Army, whom he would later pass for most games won at the colligate level (903). Knight’s coach was no other than of course Fred Tayor at Ohio state. Who interestingly enough had never played basketball in high school but became the starting forward for the buckeyes after learning about the game when he served in the army. He would end up winning a Big Ten conference championship as a player and have an even more successful career as a coach. John Wooden, former UCLA coach who won 10 NCAA Championships in 12 years played at Purdue University for Hall of Fame coach, Wart Lambert. So where does Jim Boeheim fit into this family tree of successful coaching? Nowhere, Boeheim did not learn from the best of the best. He played under Fred Lewis at Syracuse University who went 91-57 and Roy Danforth, who although were good coaches were nothing like Smith, Rupp, or Knight. So, how did this coach, in a relatively small and unknown city in Central New York, become one of the greatest coaches of all time? For one, the 2-3 zone must have played a large part because, 34 NCAA Tournament appearances, five Final Fours, and a national championship later and it is still the only defense he used. Is it because he spent his entire career in one place? Was it his grumpy and stubborn personality that frankly did not care what anyone thought of him? It is likely that a combination of all these factors is what makes Jim Boeheim the successful college basketball coach he is.

Jim Boeheim did what no one thought he could do. His outstanding career consisted of 47 winning seasons, 44 postseason playoff berths, 34 trips to the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament. In those 34 appearances, Syracuse made it to the Final Four in 5 of those years, and he even led the Orange to their first National Championship victory in program history in 2003. Boeheim finished with a 1,015-441-win loss record despite 108 games revoked due to a scandal within the Syracuse Men’s basketball program in 2015. Boeheim became the winningest coach after Krzyzewski retired in 2022. In 2005, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. But what might have been the most important and memorable part of his career, was that he was able to coach both of his sons, Buddy Boeheim, and Jimmy Boeheim at Syracuse. Jim Boeheim has done so much for the game of basketball, the city of Syracuse, and Syracuse University, will always be his home.