Item: Orange Watch has learned from various sources with knowledge of the situation that after 38 years Jim Boeheim is going to give the NBA a try before he retires, and Mike Hopkins will FINALLY succeed his mentor directing the Orange program.
Well, so much for an even 40 years at his alma mater and 1000 career NCAA victories for the Hall of Fame coach who defines Syracuse basketball.
Sources from both NBA front offices and the college game have confirmed to us that Phil Jackson, recently named the Knicks president, reached out to Boeheim, who just completed his 38th season directing Syracuse, to take over the Knicks first through his relationship with USA Basketball board chairman Jerry Colangelo, and then directly with Boeheim in several phone calls shortly after he was introduced in his new front office role on March 17 and after the Orange season ended with a March 19 loss to Dayton in the NCAA Tournament, and asked Boeheim to come to New York to transform the Carmelo Anthony-led lackluster Knicks franchise after the season.
“Phil was intrigued by the fact that having coached Anthony for his one season in college (2002-03 when Anthony helped lead the Orange and Boeheim to the school’s first national championship) and to the gold medal in two Olympic games, that Boeheim might be the perfect fit for ‘Melo at this stage of his career,” a NBA executive told us on condition of anonymity.
“And the money…he (Boeheim) just more than doubled his income. A lot of pressure now, sure, but, pretty sweet,” the executive said admiringly in Boeheim accepting the ultimate coaching challenge and radical career change at age 69.
The Knicks are 32-43 (as of March 31) but in line for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference under third-year coach Mike Woodson. Anthony, now in his 11th NBA season, leads New York in scoring averaging 28 ppg.
Attempts to reach Boeheim and Hopkins, who has been an Orange assistant since 1995, were unsuccessful Monday; the SU basketball office would only say the two coaches were away recruiting and then due to head directly to the Final Four at Arlington, Tex. later in the week.
Calls to Boeheim’s suburban Syracuse home went unanswered Monday.
SU athletics chief communications officer Joe Giansante in an email response would neither confirm nor deny that Boeheim has had talks with any NBA team, or that Hopkins would be elevated to the head coaching position, writing only that the school would have no further comment.
It’s a stunning, quick, and incredible ending to the five decade Jim Boeheim era establishing Syracuse basketball into an elite national program.
(Editor’s Note: Before any of our readers say, “I can’t believe it,” please look at the calendar.)