|Coach Jim Boeheim|
How did he do it?
Never a blip on the screen for a recruiting violation. Never a degree above 32 in the hottest of places in town, and that was from November through March 15th. Never a loss, only a missed free throw or two and a terribly thought-out mascot.
We made fun of the "Dome Ranger" as he ran around the Carrier Dome like a maniac ... we shook our heads with disgust as the fans dressed in Orange far outnumbered the fans in Red at Madison Square Garden for the "big" CBS Game of the Week.
St John's faded like a cheap suit from Beijing while Georgetown and Syracuse looked like a $5G Burberry from Wall Street. Syracuse had Bob Costas and the Newhouse School and David Falk ... and they had that zone. Yes, that zone defense that caused every team in the BIG EAST nightmares fro decades on end. The Redmen would practice and practice but they couldn't break the zone and Syracuse would win another. And another.
Years after graduation, we still had to watch Boeheim come into the Garden, his team often limping in with a losing streak - but then - ZAPPO. Big East Finals. Gerry McNamara and all.
Six hundred wins (in about 2000-01) became 700 became 800 and now 900 ... err... make that 920.
All that, and the Dome Ranger and the stupid looking squashed Orange are all I can criticize? Well, yessss. That and the fact, when I met Boeheim and his staff and his charming wife and the family, he was great. Yes it was the 2006-08 USA Basketball experience and he was.... well. Great.
Although very quiet at first, he would open up a little in (very) small groups. Gradually, as he gained some comfort and surely a little behind the scenes resume or background checking, he would open up more. Witty, sarcastic as hell, funny. Yes, funny.
Many people would say? Boeheim? Funny? Huh? What?
But they didn't see him in quiet, closed quarters - maybe with an NBA veep of Red Wine presiding. But, I saw it and I wondered aloud.
One day, with Carmelo Anthony in the prelims before the 2004 Olympics, I gave in and asked, " So, okay, why on earth did you go to Syracuse, freeze your ass off and play up there for Boeheim where you don;t see the sun between November and April?
Melo: "He recruited me. and ... no one else did."
When Boeheim and UConn coach Jim Calhoun were enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame, it was enough to make any St. John's or Georgetown follower's skin crawl - even though our coaches beat them to the honor. The player turnout for both Syracuse and UConn was OUT-standing. They were all there. Ray Allen to Coleman and tons and tons of BIG East fans. Busloads and busloads of 'em, just like on Eighth Ave. and 33rd Street.
Damn Boeheim. Good luck in the ACC and don't let the door hit ch'ya on the way out.
Here's your Syracuse treat: