As we countdown to the start of the college basketball season, The Juice Online will tackle a burning question about the Syracuse basketball team in “Tipoff Countdown.”
Today’s topic: Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is entering his 37th season as the head coach of the Orange, and it’s become an annual ritual to speculate about the old ball coach. Is this the season that Boeheim decides to hang it up?
Jim Boeheim’s legacy is already cemented.
The Syracuse coach has notched nine Big East regular season championships, five Big East Tournament championships, and 28 NCAA Tournament appearances, including three appearances in the national title game and the 2003 national championship.
One of the few questions left for Boeheim is when he’ll decide to call it quits. On the one hand, Boeheim has told reporters that he can “see the end,” but he also has been on record that he has no plans to retire anytime soon.
That has led to plenty of speculation.
The reality is that only a handful of people know the real answer to the question, if there is an answer to it at all.
Perhaps Boeheim doesn’t even know himself. There are plenty of factors at play, and many of them are result dependent.
Here is a list of some of those factors:
THE AGE FACTOR: This is probably the most obvious one. Last season, Boeheim was the fourth oldest coach in the NCAA, trailing only Jim Calhoun (70), Charlie Coles (70) and Tevester Anderson (75). Coles and Calhoun retired in the offseason and Boeheim will turn 68 this season.
THE BOBBY KNIGHT FACTOR: Boeheim starts the season at 890 wins, good for third all time among Division I coaches, and second among active coaches. Mike Krzyzewski is at 927, and shows no signs of slowing down. But Boeheim is right on the heels of Bob Knight at 902, and will likely pass him this season. Retiring with the second all time wins isn’t a bad feat, especially knowing that Calhoun will never catch him.
THE COMPETITIVE FACTOR: Boeheim is one of the most competitive coaches in the game; is there a chance he loses his fire? He’s said publicly that if he ever loses his passion for the game and his drive to win, that’s when he knows it’s time to hang it up.
THE BIG EAST FACTOR: Boeheim is the last of the original Big East coaches to still be at the same school. If Boeheim is nothing else, he is extremely loyal, and it’s hard to picture the Big East without Boeheim, or Boeheim without the Big East. Perhaps as Syracuse sings its swan song in the conference, Boeheim will do the same.
THE ACC FACTOR: Then again, the prospect of playing in a new conference and proving that Syracuse can compete with Duke and North Carolina is a tempting prospect. Boeheim may also want to ensure the smooth transition between conferences so that Mike Hopkins has the foundation to succeed after he’s gone.
THE FINAL FOUR FACTOR: Boeheim was a member of the coaching staff that went to the 1975 Final Four. He was then the head coach of the 1987, 1996 and 2003 that all went to regional championships. There’s an allure about a school going to the Final Four once a decade, and if Boeheim is able to extend that streak to five decades, perhaps that allows him to walk away.
THE CHAMPIONSHIP FACTOR: On the same note, let’s assume that Syracuse wins a championship this year. How many people get to say they went out on top? Not many, and maybe that would be Boeheim’s final parting gift to SU.
THE TALENT FACTOR: At this point in Boeheim’s career, he’s not likely to want to oversee a rebuilding period. Then again, no such thing is in the foreseeable future. Next season, Tyler Ennis will join the Orange. There’s talk about Isaiah Whitehead and Chris McCullough joining the season after that. Syracuse has gotten to the point where it just reloads, so this probably won’t come into play.
THE SCANDAL FACTOR: Last season was one of the Orange’s worst off the court, with allegations surrounding Bernie Fine and a Yahoo! Sports report about failed internal drug tests. Other than being criticized for his initial reaction to the news about Fine, Boeheim wasn’t affected by it. But while both stories have been dormant, neither has been fully resolved.
Those are just some of the factors to consider.
So now the question…