Orange Watch: The amazing longevity of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim

Boeheim
18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey hosted a Sports Leadership Seminar with Jim Boeheim, Syracuse University men’s basketball head coach at the Pentagon, May 7, 2014. DoD photo by Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp.

Item: Soon to begin preseason practice (October 14) for his 45th season as head coach, and with a couple of years remaining on his contract, there’s no telling how long Boeheim will keep guiding the ‘Cuse. Rejuvenated by coaching his son Buddy, taking the leadership rein guiding his players/staff through preparation changes and schedule alterations in the throes of a national pandemic, and as usual, stacking up future rosters with top-level recruits, Boeheim, who will turn 76 in November, may just end up retiring as an octogenarian with a half century of stalking the Manley and Dome sidelines.

Could we see a golden anniversary for Jim Boeheim as Orange boss with a head-shaking 50 seasons as the head coach at one program?

After this upcoming campaign, that’s only four seasons away (2025-26). Even with Buddy Boeheim’s on-course eligibility schedule expiring after the next season is completed – 2021-22, the SU junior guard could theoretically be a graduate assistant coach under his father for a year while pursuing an advanced degree, and that would be just three years removed from a 50th season as head coach.

Boeheim’s close friend and the all-time leader in victories, Mike Krzyzewski, is going into his 41st straight season at Duke (after his first five years coaching at Army), but is Coach K going to be around nine more years at his current age 73?

When you look at the record books for longevity as a head coach in NCAA football and basketball and the four major professional sports ranks, 50 years plus (and even next on the lists) tenure with the same school/franchise is a rarity:

NCAA Basketball (all divisions):

  • 53-Years-Herb Magee from 1967-present at Philadelphia Textile, Philadelphia University, Jefferson University-the school name changed twice during his tenure.
  • 52-Years-Harry Statham from 1967-2018 at McKendree University.
  • 51-Years-Jim Smith from 1964-2015 at Saint John’s University (MN).
  • 49-Years-Jim Phelan from 1954-2003 at Mount St. Mary’s University.
  • (Hall of Famer Phog Allen coached a total of 50 years, with 39 at Kansas plus three other schools.)
  • (With his 1,065 “official” number of victories, Boeheim is fourth on the all-time, all divisions list behind Krzyzewski (1,157), Magee (1,123), and Statham (1,122) in college hoops history.)

NCAA Football (all divisions):

  • 60-Years-John Gagliardi from 1953-2012 at Saint John’s University (MN), plus four years at Carroll College for a total of 64 years as a head coach.
  • 55-Years-Eddie Robinson from 1941-1942, 1945-1997 at Grambling University.
  • 46-Years-Joe Paterno from 1966-2011 at Penn State University.
  • (Amos Alonzo Stagg coached 57 years (1890-1946) with three schools.)

» Related: A new era begins for Syracuse with the renovated Carrier Dome

MLB:

  • 50-Years-Connie Mack from 1901-1950 with the Philadelphia Athletics, plus three years with the Pittsburgh Pirates for a total of 53 years as a manager. It helped that Mack owned the Athletics and didn’t fire himself.
  • 31-Years-John McGraw from 1902-1931 with the New York Giants.

NFL:

  • 40-Years-George Halas with the Chicago Bears from 1921-1967, plus one year with the Decatur Staleys for a total of 41 seasons as a head coach. It helped that Halas owned the Bears and didn’t fire himself.
  • 29-Years-Curly Lambeau with the Green Bay Packers from 1921-1949, plus four years with the Chicago Cardinals and Washington Redskins for a total of 33 seasons as a head coach (same for Don Shula). It helped that Lambeau essentially owned the Packers for 20 of his 29 seasons.

NBA:

  • 24-Years-Gregg Popovich from 1996-present with the San Antonio Spurs.
  • 23-Years-Jerry Sloan from 1985-2011 with the Utah Jazz.
  • (Lenny Wilkens coached 32 seasons with six teams. Don Nelson coached 31 seasons with four teams.)

NHL:

  • 20-Years-Jack Adams from 1927-1947 with the Detroit Red Wings franchise.
  • 20-Years-Al Abour from 1973-2008 with the New York Islanders.
  • (Scotty Bowman coached 30 seasons with five teams. Dick Irvin coached 27 seasons with three teams.)

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Brad Bierman
About Brad Bierman 684 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.