Orange Watch: A different sartorial look for the Syracuse basketball sideline

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim gives instructions from the sideline. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: Before this pandemic-stricken college basketball season got underway, ACC coaches voted to abandon the traditional formal suit and tie look and wear more casual clothing, including polo shirts, khaki-style pants and non-dress shoes. With no spectators in attendance, there seemingly is no reason to dress to impress.  To us, it should be a lasting change.

We have never thought it made sense for basketball coaches to wear $2,500 suits or $800 sports jackets on the sideline with athletes running around sweating and emitting bodily substances. 

Understanding the professorial nature of a coach teaching his team during competition is a similar exercise to an esteemed lecturer dressing the part in front of a classroom full of students, the difference, however, is that athletics is not academics.

The sight of a coach such as Villanova’s consistently snappily attired Jay Wright hugging one of his players always makes us cringe, knowing the garment was quickly headed to the dry cleaners for special care.

It’s traditionally rare for college basketball coaches not to have worn a shirt and tie.  The exceptions are few and far between.  One of the earliest we know of is Princeton Hall of Famer Pete Carill who coached the Tigers from 1967-1996.  

Growing up in Princeton, N.J. we got to know the guru of the famous “Princeton offense” up close and personal, and although he originally wore a tie and short sleeve shirt at the outset of his career, over the years Carill’s look morphed into strictly business casual.  

After retiring from Princeton, Carill joined the NBA’s Sacramento Kings in 1996 and gravitated to a more snazzy Ivy League academic appearance with a bow tie.  

Of the current active major college basketball coaches, West Virginia’s Bob Huggins has long been an exception to the formal attire route during his 13 years in Morgantown.  

Before ACC coaches voted for the casual look this season, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey has been eschewing a tie for many years citing the uncomfortable nature of wearing something around his neck.  

Which brings us to Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse staff circa 2020-21.  You can practically count on one finger the number of times the Orange boss has worn a suit on the sideline during his 45-year career.

The standard Boeheim game “uniform” has been a dress shirt and tie, navy blue or gray blazer and matching pants of various similar shades.  He has gone casual for early-season games in tropical environments such as Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the Bahamas, but for the most part all of Orange Nation knows the look.

» Related: Syracuse routs Boston College to open ACC play

With face coverings mandatory to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus until further notice, benches spread apart at a safe social distance, and no fans in the stands, it only seems appropriate that the current sideline look would resemble a practice atmosphere. 

With a few tweaks here and there, and an abundance of nice-looking Syracuse-themed polo and button-down shirts available, there’s no reason why this season shouldn’t signal a paradigm shift in the sideline attire of the Syracuse staff and all college basketball coaches.  

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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.