Item: If Greg Paulus succeeds at Niagara after being named the permanent head coach last week, and that will be a true test (or big IF) given the program’s fall as a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference contender the last decade with only three winning seasons during that period and a current 0-2 start to Paulus’ debut campaign, would he be a logical candidate to head back down the Thruway to his hometown where he once dutifully served a season (2009) as Doug Marrone’s first quarterback, this time to succeed a legend?
First things first. We are not advocating for Jim Boeheim’s retirement. He’s more than earned the right to end his gargantuan Hall of Fame career as he sees fit, whatever that year is in the upcoming 2020s. Let’s enjoy the twilight of his magnificent tenure.
End of that part of the story.
When it’s time to name Boeheim’s successor (and to a certain faction of Orange Nation that time was in 2017-18) there will be obvious and deserving candidates both on the current makeup of Boeheim’s bench staff, the former makeup of his bench staff, and elsewhere nationally.
To even be an opportunistic and qualified candidate at that point in time down the road, Paulus, who replaced Patrick Beilein suddenly in September after Beilein’s surprise resignation, has to tap into Niagara’s tradition-rich alumni base to build recruiting contacts, which he has vowed to do, upgrade the program’s talent level to compete and win consistently in the MAAC, and strive for the league’s automatic NCAA bid.
The Purple Eagles haven’t tasted March Madness since 2007, winning a play-in game then losing as the 16-seed to No. 1 Kansas by 40 points, and Paulus inherited a team picked to finish 10th out of 11 teams in the MAAC preseason poll, and a schedule that features only two home games before Jan. 3.
If Paulus does turn heads at Niagara, here’s why his name is one to keep an Orange eye on:
*He’s a Syracuse native, an athlete and a scholar.
Need we say more? A Duke graduate, and former Orange student-athlete with multiple degrees. He won the Gatorade High School Male Athlete of the Year Award while at Christian Brothers Academy. His teammates voted him captain his one year as the Orange starting quarterback in which he completed 67.7% of his passes (193-of-295 attempts), the best single-season performance in SU history. A two-time Academic All-American at Duke where he earned a degree in political science, Paulus also completed his masters in Television, Radio and Film at the Newhouse School.
*Played and won at the highest level collegiately.
Although Duke only advanced to two NCAA Sweet 16 rounds in Paulus’s four years, he was a three-year starter and two-time captain on three ACC championship teams. That is credibility when recruiting.
*Has an impressive list of mentors and experiences that helped shape his career.
Start with Coach K at Duke, then Marrone, now leading the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, and a little bit of Boeheim rubbing off at Syracuse and the USA Basketball connection. Add six years on Thad Motta’s staff at Ohio State, a season with Billy Lange at Navy (now the head coach at Saint Joseph’s), along with a wild 2017-18 working alongside interim coach David Padgett at Louisville after Rick Pitino’s firing. Before joining Niagara, Paulus spent last season assisting Maurice Joseph at George Washington. Joseph, dismissed at GW last March, is the older brother of former SU standout Kris Joseph (2009-2012).
*Would bring a younger and fresh perspective into the program.
Following a coach who’s been on the job parts of six decades and leaves the post at age 75-80, means that the successor will automatically bring those attributes to the job. A coach like Paulus who’s experience includes having played for the Orange in the Dome (albeit football), received a Syracuse degree, and subsequently brings a winning record with his head coaching experience, would be hard to overlook.