Long-time Post-Standard columnist Bud Poliquin puts together 68 of some of the greatest Orange basketball stories ever told in his updated Tales from the Syracuse Orange’s Locker Room. The book was originally published in 2003 following SU’s first (and only) NCAA national championship, but, obviously, plenty has happened since then.
Each of the 68 stories is a standalone on a variety of topics from the depths of the program (believe it or not, Syracuse basketball turned in a 2-22 season once), to the absolute elation of Carmelo Anthony leading the Orange to the 2003 title. In between, there are quirky stories about Jim Boeheim’s brief run as Syracuse’s golf coach to the origins of Roy’s Runts, all the way to last season’s improbable run to the Final Four in Atlanta. Each story has its own charm to it, and the book itself is enjoyable and a quick read (I did it in roughly two sessions in the span of 24 hours) for any Syracuse hoops diehard.
Some of the stories are popular and have been told many times before (please, no more about Keith Smart’s shot!), but Poliquin manages to unturn a couple of stones along the way, particularly the chapters on “The (Almost) Forgotten Orangeman,” a tale about Bill Smith, one of the best statistical players in Orange history, and two players who went on to be an FBI agent and a major league baseball pitcher, respectively. The book also lends a special shoutout to The Juice Online senior college basketball analyst Andrew Kouwe, who was also a walk-on during that title run, during an interview with Kouwe’s uncle, Bob.
Those stories were covered in the 2003 addition, and in the new addition, Poliquin takes aim at the last decade. Highlights include Boeheim being named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Gerry McNamara’s improbable 2006 Big East Tourney run, SU’s departure to the ACC and Mike Hopkins, the coach in (seemingly forever) waiting. I personally would’ve liked to have seen a separate chapter on Syracuse’s 2009 Big East Tournament game against Connecticut that went six overtimes, or something more in-depth about the Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins 2009-10 team that rose to be the No. 1 team in the country or even Syracuse’s swan song in the final Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Still, Poliquin tracked down now retired referee Tim Higgins, a long-time nemesis of Boeheim’s, and Syracuse fans at large (and I doubt Syracuse is the only fan base that feels the same way about him). Higgins said he would ‘wince’ when he saw Syracuse on his schedule. Perhaps Higgins knows that we had a similar reaction when we saw his name, as well. It’s a humorous and brutally honest interview, one of many in Poliquins’ book that encapsulates the excitement of Syracuse basketball.
Here’s an except from the book’s jacket:
Recapture the excitement of Syracuse Basketball—newly updated!
Orange is a state of mind for fans of Syracuse University basketball. Think Orange and images of greatness appear, from Vic Hanson in the Roaring ’20s through Carmelo Anthony in the 21st century. Think Orange and the sounds of glory are heard, from old Archbold Gym to the gleaming Carrier Dome. Think Orange and the memories of 1,607 victories are stirred, from SU’s first win in 1901 over Cornell to its 2003 triumph over Kansas that brought home the national championship. Many of the stories that have contributed to the phenomenon known as Orangemen basketball now come to life in Bud Poliquin’s Tales from the Syracuse Orange’s Locker Room.
Dave Bing, Jim Boeheim, Jim Brown (yes, he played hoops, too), Bouie and Louie, Leo Rautins, Pearl Washington, and Derrick Coleman—all of them and numerous other SU legends join Hanson and Anthony in the pages of this anecdotal anthology of Syracuse University basketball, certain to complete the bookshelf of any Orangemen fan. This book looks at the team’s infamous 27-game losing streak in the early 1960s; Roy’s Runts; the Pearl’s stunning half-court buzzer-beater that knocked off Boston College in 1984; the fabulous Final Four runs of 1975, 1996, 2003, and 2013, with current players Michael Carter-Williams, James Southerland, and Brandon Triche; and Anthony’s freshman brilliance that delivered the school’s first-ever NCAA tournament title. Also features 15 black & white photographs.
Make sure to get your copy of Tales from the Syracuse Orange’s Locker Room on Amazon.