Jim Boeheim, in typical fashion, downplayed another one of his major accomplishments.
The Syracuse head coach of 37 years won his 903rd career game against Rutgers on Wednesday night, giving him sole possession of second place in all-time wins among Division I coaches. It was his 903rd career win, giving him one more win than former Indiana coach Bobby Knight. The only coach ahead of Boeheim now is Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who has 940 wins.
But Jim Boeheim was still not impressed.
“It really isn’t about numbers,” he said. “At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how many wins you have. It just doesn’t matter… They’re just numbers.”
Not too long ago, Boeheim won his 900th game. His response?
‘To me, it’s just a number,” Boeheim said, in a response that mirrored his feelings Wednesday. ”If I get 900, have I got to get more? That’s why maybe it’s just not that important to me because to me it’s just a number, and the only number that matters is how this team does.”
Some coaches say that to be modest. It’s become coach-speak in the modern age of social media to defer credit.
But those who know Boeheim well know that he meant it.
“To know him is to know that in the middle of the basketball season, he’s not focusing on anything except getting his team better and winning the next game,” former assistant coach Tim Welsh said in December. “That’s the big picture.”
Which is to say that some numbers do matter to Boeheim. The number he’s likely fixated on these days is two.
As in, two national championships.
“He can’t really be to overwhelmed about it now. But once his career is over, he’s gonna be like, ‘I was one great coach.'” guard Brandon Triche said. “Every game, it’s just for one goal; it’s just to win a national championship. That’s probably why he keeps on downplaying it.”
Instead of basking in the moment, Boeheim was more interested in discussing the play of his interior defense and Triche’s hot shooting night. Or even the prospect of SU football coach Doug Marrone possibly bolting for the NFL.
Anything to avoid talking about himself, because that is who Boeheim is, and that is what keeps him striving for win 904, and beyond.
Perhaps a note from Boeheim’s friend, Geno, said it best.
“It was about time,” the note said.
“Which is about what I expected from him. But that’s the way I feel about it,” Boeheim said. “I’m really proud, but I really think more about all the things that I just talked about.”