• Ryan Costello

Things to Consider: Jim Boeheim Needs to Begin Thinking About Retirement ASAP

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

By Ryan Costello

Image courtesy of Getty Images

For all my life I’ve been a Syracuse Orange fan. From the time they won their first national championship in 2003 with a squad for the ages, which included Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick, and Gerry McNamara; to now where they currently sit at 5-4. Both teams were coached by the current second most winningest coach in NCAA Men’s Basketball history, Jim Boeheim.

Image courtesy of Syracuse.com

The 2019-20 season has started horribly for the Syracuse Orangemen. They have only four losses on the season and they’ve all been embarrassing.  Going in order from most recent to latest, the Syracuse losses include:

Iowa: 68-54

Penn State: 85-64

Oklahoma State: 86-72

Virginia: 48-34

Before I start going in on the team for each loss, I’d like to mention that all of these teams have been good this year so far. Now that that's settled, let's look at the points scored and the point differentials. 

First loss of the season was to a Virginia team that just lost several important pieces that helped this team when a national championship last year. The players they lost go by the names of Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, Jack Salt and De’Andre Hunter; so huge losses. Instead of taking advantage of these losses with the “legendary” Syracuse 2-3 zone, they get mollywhopped by Virginia’s almost impeccable defense and only score 32 points. Yup, 32 points . For those who don’t know, most teams score that very amount in one half of basketball.

The rest of the losses speak for themselves, they’ve been beaten by beatable teams by an average of 16.3 points per game. Horrible, just flat out horrible. If anyone reading this has watched the games where Syracuse plays a real team, they look like lost dogs who don’t know how to put a hand in the face of shooters. It also doesn’t help when the team’s supposed leader, Senior small forward Elijah Hughes, launches shots from thirty feet out praying they go in each time.

This year’s Orangemen team might be one of the worst I’ve ever seen. I want to say they’re better than the 2014-15 season when the team was playing for practically nothing with the punishment the NCAA gave the university, but at least that team had talented players like Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney, Chris McCullough, Michael Gbinije, and B.J. Johnson.

In the end, mediocracy hasn’t been new for Syracuse in the past few years. They’ve seen recruitment classes go from good to meh, they have averaged less than 70 points per game four times in the last six years, and have been a bubble team to make the tournament every year since the 2015-16 season.

I’ve been trying to hold back the trash talk for years and support the guy through thick and thin, but it’s time for Coach Boeheim to go. I have several examples to back up my controversial statement.

Jim Boeheim has been hindering recruitment for years. You’re probably thinking, “Wait, what?! Jim Boeheim does what? He’s a hall of famer and coaches in the Carrier Dome, who wouldn’t want to play for that!?” I can tell you plenty of people wouldn’t. People especially don’t want to play for your school when the team’s head coach doesn’t even make an effort to go out and recruit players. 

Again for those who don’t know, Boeheim doesn’t do his own recruiting; he instead has Andy Griffin do that for him and before him was the current University of Washington’s head coach, Mike Hopkins. 

Mike Hopkins, current head coach of University of Washington's basketball program. Image courtesy of Twitter

One example of the result of Mike Hopkins doing the recruiting that hurt Syracuse occurred recently, when Jim Boeheim signed a contract extension in 2017 that extended into 2022, Coach Hopkins left. Along with him Hopkins took a top-3 recruit in the nation, according to the ESPN 100, who went by the name of Isaiah Stewart. Stewart is currently averaging 16.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and two blocks per game for the 7-1 Huskies. 

Hopkins also brought guard Naziah Carter and point guard Quade Green, as a transfer, with him to the city of Seattle. All three of the players mentioned were considering committing to Syracuse when Mike Hopkins was still the assistant coach. Carter currently averages 14.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 51% from the field. Washington has also been one of the best teams in the PAC-12 since Hopkins arrival and currently sit at number 22 in the AP rankings.

Jim Boeheim has also kept players from reaching their full potential in the past. My favorite example of this comes in the form of B.J. Johnson. While at Syracuse, he averaged only 2.8 points per game, and at the same time averaged 10 minutes a game in his two years with the team.

Johnson sat out the 2015-16 season when he transferred to La Salle because of the NCAA’s transfer rules, but during his two seasons where he actually played with the school, he was a unit. Johnson averaged 19.1 points, 1.2 steals and 7.3 rebounds per game with La Salle, and he actually got an opportunity to play while at the school. B.J. played 33.9 minutes per game while with the school, more than triple his play time at Syracuse.

By the way, the NCAA’s transfer rules state that once a player transfers to a new school they must take an academic year in residence before they can take part in games. They use this as a way to encourage academics and help the student-athletes bond with their teammates. Which is why Johnson had to sit-out for a season at La Salle. I personally think the rule is bullshit, but I’ll save that for another day.

Image courtesy of the Associated Press

Another player that comes to mind is Dion Waiters. Yes the same Dion Waiters as Waiters Island, and the same Dion Waiters who got so high on a plane that he forgot how to breath. Dion Waiters averaged a measly 6.6 points per game, but when his minutes saw an increase of about eight per game he averaged 12.1 points per game and found himself as the fourth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Finally I’d like to show that the trend hasn’t existed in only this decade but in the past as well, Tony Bland averaged 18.2 minutes a game with ‘Cuse and only 5.6 points, but when his minutes increased by around 16 after he transferred to San Diego State to play with Aztecs, he saw his points per game increase to 16.1.

Bland was an Orangeman from 1998 to 2000, and an Aztec from 2001-2003, which seemed to work out because, well, we know what happened to Syracuse in 2003. I’d also like to add that not all of the transfers have worked out as successfully, for instance Kaleb Joseph and Matthew Moyer.

Another reason why that creates cause for considering Boeheim’s retirement comes from Syracuse’s downward trend toward mediocrity since the end of the 2013-14 season. 

A reason for the mediocrity of the Orangemen is partially due to the outdated and signature 2-3 zone. I have a couple problems with the team’s 2-3 zone these days. One problem I have is how little it does to prepare players for the NBA, which is all man defense. 

Problem number two is how bad the team’s perimeter defense is with the 2-3 zone, which isn’t supported by the opponents three point percentage so far this season because of the weaker teams they’ve played, but the players look foolish when they try to stretch the zone and don’t even manage to get a hand the shooters face. 

Problem three is my biggest issue, once a team figures out how to cut through the Syracuse defense it becomes a scoring clinic. It also doesn’t help when all teams have to do is get the ball to their centers, who’re much bigger than the skinny post players that the Orange have (Jesse Edwards, Paschal Chukwu, and Bourama Sidibe).

Another reason is Syracuse’s inability to score in recent years. As I said prior, Syracuse has averaged less than 70 points per game in four times in the last six seasons, including this year. The last time that happened before the 2014-15 season was 1962. Yup, over 50 years of being good down the toilet as soon as the punishments from the NCAA came down.

After an eight year investigation into Syracuse University concluded in 2014, the NCAA hammered the school with punishments. The punishments included a nine game suspension from ACC games for Jim Boeheim, 101 wins were vacated from Jim Boeheim’s career, 12 scholarships being taken from Syracuse over the course of 4 years, and the return of all funds the school made from 2011 to 2013 back to the NCAA. The school also created some self-imposed penalties including a postseason ban in the 2014-15 season and the vacating of a combined 24 wins from the 2004-05 and 2011-12 seasons.

When Syracuse received a punishment I wasn’t surprised, especially when Fab Melo (rest in peace) could barely speak English. The extent of the punishments still perplex me, but what perplexes me even more is how easy North Carolina got off after it came out the athletes at UNC were passing classes that didn’t exist; again,that’s for another day.

One more thing, I still love the revenge tour the Oranagemen went on in the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Probably the biggest middle finger the school could give the NCAA. For those who don’t know, Syracuse made the Final Four that year after making a 20-point comeback against number one seed Virginia in the Elite Eight, ‘Cuse was also the 10 seed at the time.

Boeheim has also been extremely selfish since the punishments from the NCAA. Before Syracsue faced penalties, Jim Boeheim was second on the all-time wins list for Division-1 college basketball coaches and 34 wins away from 1,000. After the penalties, Jimmy B got knocked down to 865 wins, and his greed for the official 1,000 has gotten the best of him. Boeheim was originally supposed to retire after the 2017-18 season, but instead signed an extension through the 2021-22 season. The extension was signed so Boeheim could coach his son ,Buddy, and I think it was also signed because he wants to reach the illustrious 1,000 wins.

The extension signed resulted in recruiting guru, Mike Hopkins, to leave Syracuse to Washington, as you know. Hopkins was the associate head coach at the university and the supposed successor to Jim Boeheim.

For my final statement I’d like to end on a good note. I’ll forever be grateful of Jim Boeheim and what he’s done for Syracuse in his time here and I also apologize for the trash talk, I had to air some things out. 

Jimmy, from me to you personally, you have 1,052 career wins no matter what anybody says, you’re a champion and the best coach in Big East history; I love you but father time is calling your name and I think it’s time you listen.

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