Each Friday during the summer, The Juice Online will be looking back to some of the biggest story lines in the 2012-13 Syracuse sports year. This week, we take a look back at Syracuse men’s basketball making the Final Four.
Jim Boeheim wasn’t expecting to be in Atlanta for the Final Four this year. He had booked a trip to Disney World with his family before the NCAA tournament.
It would’ve been hard to blame Boeheim at the time. His team limped into the postseason losers of four of five games, punctuated by an embarrassing 61-39 loss to Georgetown to end the season.
An early second-round exit seemed more likely than a championship weekend trip.
But by the end of the Big East Tournament, Boeheim knew he was on to something. His team’s 2-3 zone was as good as its ever been, and the offense was enough to carry the team all the way to Atlanta.
And how did he celebrate?
By not going to Disney World.
Instead, Boeheim joined an elite and exclusive list of coaches that have made the Final Four in four separate decades. The group includes Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino.
And that’s it.
In his first appearance in 1987, Boeheim was one shot shy of winning an NCAA title against Indiana. In 1996, Boeheim lost to Pitino and the Kentucky Wildcats in the title game. In 2003, Boeheim captured his first championship, led by heralded freshman Carmelo Anthony.
This year, a stingy zone, Michael Carter-Williams’ court vision and the do-it-all abilities of CJ Fair were enough to carry Syracuse to the national semifinal, where the Orange ultimately lost to Michigan, 61-56.
“It’s hard to get here (playing for a Final Four slot), that’s all I can tell you,” Boeheim said before SU’s Elite Eight win over Marquette. “There has been a couple of teams that we thought wouldn’t get here and they have. It’s much more difficult now in today’s world (field of 68) to get to this point.”
Difficult, but not impossible. Boeheim has definitely proven that.
WHAT WE SAID:
It’s an accomplishment that Jim Boeheim has often said he is proud of. On this his 50th anniversary of attending Syracuse as a student, serving as an assistant coach then head coach, he’s been part of all four of the school’s Final Four appearances, one each decade since the 1970s (1975, 1987, 1996, 2003): not too bad for consistency for a smaller, private school in central New York. How many programs would take that standard in a heartbeat? — Brad Bierman
WHAT THEY SAID:
Boeheim has never been on the so-called hot seat because he’s only missed the NCAA Tournament seven times in 37 seasons as a head coach. And Boeheim has never missed it three consecutive times. He’s actually made the Sweet 16 in four of the past five seasons. So it’s reasonable (and accurate) to state that Boeheim is just as good at his job at the age of 68 as he was at 58, 48 and 38, and how many people can you say that about? Not just coaches. People? How many people in any profession are consistently great at their jobs for nearly four decades with no extended downswings? I can’t think of many. But I know Boeheim is one of them. — Gary Parrish, CBSSports