Orange Watch: Syracuse basketball embarking on a season like no other

Jim Boeheim
Nov. 12, 2020; Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim speaks to reporters via Zoom.

Item: On the day that Syracuse basketball was finally officially able to announce its opening game opponent in just 15 days, Bryant University in the Dome on Nov. 27, Jim Boeheim met with the media Thursday afternoon to converse a variety of topics related to beginning his 45th season as head coach. As has been the case since the pandemic unfurled last spring, there was as much to talk about related to off-the-court matters, as there was about previewing his 2020-21 Orange team.

Jim Boeheim has been around long enough to be in position to figure out how to proceed when the going gets tough.

From two post-season bans in 1993 and 2015, the Bernie Fine saga in 2011, the loss of heir apparent Mike Hopkins to Washington in 2017, to his own battle with prostate cancer in 2001, SU’s Hall of Fame coach has thoughtfully preserved with consistent success.

Now as he guides his program through the hurdles presented by COVID-19, Boeheim had a lot on his mind Thursday discussing the health of his team and staff, and what he’s seen from his talented roster heading into a hoped-for 27 game regular season.

On how he’s approaching this unprecedented season:

“The one thing I’ve learned in my life is that you don’t sit still, you don’t give up, and you don’t quit. You try to work through it. You establish protocols to keep yourself healthy, your players healthy, but you don’t sit home. We have to find a way to work through this taking all the precautions we can. We got 27 games scheduled, hopefully we’ll play them. But if it’s 22, 20, or 15, whatever it is, let’s play the games.”

On using technology and preaching to help ensure safety for the players during practice and in daily campus life:

“We’ve invested in some technology; we have a device with some chips that exactly time how long I am within six feet of a player. It has a little warning sign that goes off after four to five minutes next to any one player. We’ve been together four months, it’s almost bubble-like. Knock on wood, our players have been very good on the campus and in a town where there’s a lot of people testing positive. We’re just trying to stay in a bubble as much as we can so we can play.”

On the philosophy of putting the non-conference schedule together with balancing the challenge of the ACC and finding opponents in a COVID-19 season:

“We knew we were going to play Georgetown (date still to be determined) out of conference, we knew we were going to the Big Ten game (at Rutgers Dec. 8) which would be a good game. We had five games to fill. We knew Buffalo (Dec. 19) was going to be good. We hope we can play other local schools (Binghamton is still unofficial). You know with the league being so good (including games at Duke, at North Carolina, and at Virginia), I don’t think strength of schedule is going to be an issue. Our schedule is going to be fine, but I think the league schedule is really going to be hard.”

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The coach’s capsule takes on the top nine players (Marek Dolezaj, Bourama Sidibe, Alan Griffin, Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard, Quincy Guerrier, Jesse Edwards and freshmen Kadary Richmond and Frank Anselem) in the rotation expected to see the most game minutes:

“I think Kadary Richmond has shown in practice that he’s more than capable to help us. Obviously (Illinois transfer), Alan Griffin has proven that he can play in college already, and has fit in well with what we’re doing. Quincey is getting better, he’s getting there (coming back from a leg injury). Marek and Bourama have improved, they’re much stronger than they were last year. Joe and Buddy are much more physical and much more prepared for this year. Frank and Jesse have worked hard, they’ve shown some things that they can do.”

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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.