Emerging from the tunnel to a loud standing ovation from a crowd of 26,811, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was home.
After serving his nine-game NCAA imposed suspension, Boeheim made his first coaching appearance since Dec. 2. Energy in the Dome was high as fans welcomed their coach back from exile.
Despite the outpouring of emotion from the fans, Boeheim was all business as he first waved to the crowd before greeting UNC head coach Roy Williams.
For Boeheim, the suspension was old news and part of a past that he is not dwelling upon. Making it clear that he was not going to get into discussing the team’s performance during his absence, Boeheim stymied any attempt to ask about his month away from the program.
“I’m done,” Boeheim said. “I’m only thinking about basketball. That’s it.”
In what must have been a frustrating return to the bench for the veteran coach, Syracuse dropped its fourth straight game in ACC conference play, losing to UNC 84-73. For most of the game, SU contained the No. 6 team in the nation, ending the first half tied at 33-33.
The game remained close through most of the second half until about the last seven minutes of the game. At that point, the game started to slip away from SU as UNC went on a 27-15 point run to close out the night.
“It was a great effort but it was a poor defensive effort in the last seven or eight minutes of the game,” Boeheim said. “There is no excuse for that.”
There’s also little margin for error if SU wants to make the NCAA Tournament.
The Orange has a tough road stretch coming up after their next home game against Boston College on Jan 13. Starting with Wake Forest on January 16, Syracuse will go on to Duke and Virginia before returning home to face Notre Dame at the end of the month.
If the Orange are going to make a push and make a return to the NCAA Tournament in March, they will need all hands to help reverse their 0-4 start in ACC conference play.
Although clearly not happy with the slow start, Boeheim preached patience.
“We’ve started 0-4 one year and we won 10 games that year in the league,” Boeheim said. “There’s a long way to go.”