Orange Watch: Part II, 40 seasons of highs, lows in Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s career

Approaching his staggering 40th season, there isn’t much Jim Boeheim hasn’t come across patrolling the Syracuse sidelines

(Editor’s note: Over the summer, leading up to the 2015 football preview series in late August, Orange Watch will highlight various antidotes related to Syracuse athletics.)

One of the most interesting numerical notes of Jim Boeheim’s soon-to-be 40th season coaching Syracuse basketball is the fact that two of the three seniors on his initial 1976-77 squad, guards Larry Kelley and Jim (Don’t Call Me) “Bug” Williams are now age 60 or older (reserve center Bob Parker died in 2006 at age 51), only some 11 years younger than the coach himself who will turn 71 in November. That’s a long career in any industry, and it doesn’t even count the additional seven years he served as a graduate and full-time assistant coach under his predecessor Roy Danforth.

Having covered the Orange and Orangemen during the entire Boeheim run, as we approach an astounding 40th season, we take a look back at the high and low moments of each campaign. (Part 1, covering 1976-77 through 1995-96, is here.)

1996-97: High-Not much to pick from in a non-20 win season, perhaps a 62-60 win at No. 12 Villanova. Low-Not showing up for the NIT game in the Dome against Florida State falling 82-67.

1997-98: High-A season sweep of Georgetown and a Sweet 16 finish. Low-An 85-61 blowout loss at home to unranked Seton Hall as No. 19 in the polls.

1998-99: High-Beating Indiana again for the Maui Classic title 76-63. Low-An uneven, and at times uninspired performance falling to Oklahoma State in an 8/9 NCAA game 69-61.

1999-2000: High-A 19 game winning streak out of the gate and a climb to a No. 4 ranking. Low-After a strong first half in which SU led by 10 over nearby crowd favorite Michigan State in the NCAA Sweet 16, the Spartans upped the tempo to win going away 75-58 in suburban Detroit, on route to winning the national championship.

2000-01: High-Winning the Great Alaska Shootout with wins over DePaul, Ohio State and Missouri, on route to a 15-1 start. Low-Falling to unranked Pittsburgh in the Big East semi-finals 55-54 in OT.

2001-02: High-Taking the preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden with wins over Michigan State and Wake Forest. Low-In a season filled with internal turmoil and some player disagreements, losses to South Carolina and Tempe in the postseason NIT at the Garden, including the semi-final game against the Gamecocks when both teams came out in white jerseys, necessitating a quick run to the team hotel to fetch orange jerseys.

2002-03: High-That championship season! Melo, GMac, Warrick, Edelin, Duany, Forth, Pace, and McNeil, and an incredible year filled with a lifetime of memories capped off by the big night in New Orleans to get “those four seconds back” and beat Kansas in the title game. Low-Are there any downers after a season of cutting down the nets?

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2003-04: High-Saving the defending national champions from an embarrassing first-round NCAA exit, current assistant coach Gerry McNamara single-handedly shot the Orange past BYU with nine 3-pointers on route to a school record 43 points in a postseason game, in the 80-75 victory. Low-Losing in the first game played since the national title to unranked Charlotte 96-92 in the Dome season opener, trailing by as many as 23 points in the second half, and suffering the first loss in a Dome opener in the building’s history.

2004-05: High-Jumping out to a 20-1 start and beating Connecticut and West Virginia on route to the Big East title. Low-That 3-point basket by Vermont’s T. J. Sorrentine with just over a minute to play in overtime that clinched the Catamounts 60-57 upset win in the NCAA opener at Worcester.

2005-06: High-The Gerry McNamara show was a Broadway smash hit (“Overrated?”), with a four day run of thrilling comebacks and crazy finishes on route to an improbable Big East title with victories over Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown and Pittsburgh. Low-The 108-69 loss at DePaul, the worst margin of defeat (39 points) in the Boeheim era.

2006-07: High-The NIT record crowd of 26,272 that showed up at the Dome to support the NCAA-snubbed Orange in a second-round win over San Diego State. Low-The fact that even with 22 victories and winning seven of its last nine games, SU was left out of the NCAA field, and never received a complete explanation from tournament chair Gary Walters, the since-retired Princeton athletics director.

2007-08: High-In an otherwise unremarkable NIT-ending season, Syracuse almost swept arch-rival Georgetown, losing by two in OT on the road, and then beating the No. 8 Hoyas in the Dome. Low-Dropping two games to Massachusetts at home, including a season-ending loss in the NIT third round. Boeheim has never beaten the Minutemen in four career meetings.

2008-09: High-In a game that was played over parts of two days and was 14 minutes shy of taking four hours to complete, Syracuse outlasted Connecticut in six overtimes in the Big East quarterfinals 127-117, the second longest game in Div. I history. Low-A dominating 30 point, 14 rebound performance by Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin in the Sooners 81-74 NCAA Sweet 16 victory at Memphis.

2009-10: High-A stellar 28-3 regular season that had national championship contenders written all over it and a No. 3 ranking. Low-Arinze Onuaku’s right quad injury suffered with just over five minutes to play in the Big East tournament loss to Georgetown, leaving the unanswered question that with a healthy Onuaku, could the Orange have won national title number two?

2010-11: High-In danger of suffering the first five game losing streak of the Boeheim era, SU went to No. 6 Connecticut and upset the Huskies 66-58. UConn would go on to win the national championship. Low-A disappointing 66-62 loss to conference rival Marquette in the NCAA round of 32 at Cleveland.

2011-12: High-Suffering only one defeat in the regular season for the first time in school history, while being ranked No. 1, 2 or 3 from Dec. 17 through the season’s conclusion. Low-The Fab Melo academic eligibility mess in which Melo missed three regular season games, including the only in-season loss at Notre Dame, then the entire NCAA Tournament which ended with an Elite Eight defeat to Ohio State at Boston.

2012-13: High-The out of nowhere fourth Final Four run under Boeheim, in which the famed zone defense excelled in victories over Montana, California, Indiana, and Marquette, before ending with a national semifinal loss to Michigan at Atlanta. Low-The 61-39 loss to Georgetown in the Orange’s final Big East regular season game, the fewest points scored in a game during Boeheim’s career.

2013-14: High-The aforementioned (in Part 1) 91-89 OT win against Duke in the Blue Devils first-ever Dome appearance in SU’s ACC debut season, played in front of a NCAA on-campus record crowd of 35,446, and pitting the two winningest coaches of all time in Mike Krzyzewski and Boeheim. Low-The offensive foul call that went against the Orange in the Duke rematch at Cameron Indoor Stadium with :10 to play, and resulted in Boeheim’s first official ejection of his career in a 66-60 defeat. “Honorable Mention”: The round of 32 NCAA defeat to Dayton at Buffalo.

2014-15: High-The 65-60 win at No. 9 Notre Dame in the fourth-to-last game of the season, preventing what would have turned out to be the first five game losing streak of the Boeheim era. Low-An entire season featuring the dark cloud of the NCAA investigation hanging overhead following a late October, two day hearing in front of an infractions committee, and resulting in the school banning itself from postseason play on Feb. 4.


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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.