Man, Jim Boeheim must be feeling old.
No, not because of his recent 69th birthday (Nov. 17) feeling of old, but because Monday afternoon at Maui he matched up in game strategy and wits with the son of his first hire upon taking the SU job in April 1976 feeling of old.
As the 8th ranked Orange (5-0) continued their feeling out process early this season against a mix and match of tough early tests, finally holding off pesky and physical Minnesota (5-1) late 75-67 in the 30th Maui Invitational to move on to today’s semi-final game against California (7:00 ET/ESPN), when Boeheim strode down the sideline during pre-game introductions with the Gophers to the customary handshake of his opponent, out popped the hand of one Richard Pitino, who wasn’t even born when his dad Rick left the ‘Cuse for his first head coaching job at Boston University in 1978, and six years after Boeheim took the Orange reins.
Like his father (a 22-point Providence loss in the Dome in ’86), Richard Pitino suffered the same result in his first meeting against Boeheim Monday in Hawaii, with C.J. Fair stepping up (16 points, 10 rebounds) following a vicious first half slam dunk that resulted in a deep, bloody cut on his cheekbone, and the Orange defense stopping the Gophers in the final two plus minutes up a basket, to finally ground to a halt the fast-paced UM attack. Like father, like son.
Obviously, only one encounter between Boeheim and Richard Pitino means it would take a professional coaching lifetime to match some of the meetings between his father and Boeheim, because after all, games between two of the five active Hall of Fame college coaches have been played on the biggest of stages.
*1996 NCAA Championship: A matchup of Kentucky’s NBA-laden talent against underdog SU at East Rutherford, N.J. with John Wallace carrying his team as far as it could go before falling for Pitino’s first of two titles (and a near-miss for a second head-to-head opportunity between the two in the 2013 Final Four at Atlanta).
*1987 NCAA Semi-Final: A game at New Orleans in which Syracuse ended Providence’s Cinderella season by beating the Friars for a third time that season.
*2013 Big East Championship: Louisville stormed back at Madison Square Garden from a 16 point deficit four minutes into the second half, to avenge a Jan. regular season defeat as the No. 1 ranked team to SU before a record crowd at the KFC Yum! Center.
*2010 Louisville finale at Freedom Hall: The Orange came in as the No. 1 ranked team, but no way a program like the ‘Ville was losing its final game at Freedom Hall after 54 seasons, and an unknown reserve guard named Kyle Kuric scored 22 points to help stun Syracuse 78-68.
*2009 Big East Championship: After SU’s epic six overtime win over Connecticut in the quarter finals, followed later the same day by a single overtime victory against West Virginia in the semis, a tired Orange squad, playing for a fourth straight day, lost an eight point halftime lead against Louisville, it was the Cardinals first Big East crown.
*2006 First Big East game between Syracuse and Louisville: In front of a season-high Dome crowd of 31, 190 on a Saturday Night ESPN Game Day broadcast, Gerry McNamara’s 30 points paced the Orange during a second half run to win 79-66.