Tuesday was not a good day for Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse men’s basketball program.
Three players, John Bol Ajak, Robert Braswell and Kadary Richmond, announced they would be entering the transfer portal. Any time a player transfers, it isn’t a good sign. However, this exodus could truly signal that the end of an era is coming in Central New York.
Jim Boeheim is 76 years old. This is not news. We’ve all speculated as to when the curtain might come down on his legendary coaching career. It has already stretched on a bit longer than I think many expected.
Mike Hopkins was the heir apparent for a long time, but he got tired of waiting as Boeheim showed no signs of slowing down despite being in his 70s. For the first time in a few years, it seems like the writing might be on the wall. It certainly seems like everything is falling into place for 2023 to be his last year.
With another Sweet 16 run, Boeheim has pulled within reach of 1,000 career wins in the eyes of the NCAA again. He obviously got there once already, but the NCAA’s flawed system cost him 108 career victories for various violations. Now, Boeheim is sitting at 982 “official” wins heading into the 2021-22 season.
It is far from a requirement, but I think that it would mean a lot to Boeheim to “officially” join the 1,000-win club.
His son, Buddy, will be returning to Syracuse for his senior season, and with the extra year of eligibility brought on by COVID-19, he could stay through the 2022-23 season. Boeheim finishing his career coaching his son’s final college season would be a very fitting end to his own career.
Then, there is his other son, Jimmy, who played three seasons at nearby Cornell. The Ivy League didn’t play at all during the pandemic, and Jimmy is rumored to be looking for a new college home. Playing with his brother and father for a season makes too much sense, especially given Braswell leaving, and the tenuous futures of Marek Dolezaj, Woody Newton and Alan Griffin in orange.
For Braswell, Ajak and Richmond, it seems like these three players read the tea leaves and decided it was best to move before it was too late. Richmond and Braswell should have no shortage of suitors following good showings in the NCAA Tournament.
Richmond already has a long list of high-major schools pursuing him, including Florida State, a top 3 team in the ACC. Braswell’s skill set fits in with any team looking for a 3-and-D role player. Ajak’s size and energy could him appealing to a mid-major team.
In addition to those players exiting, SU has two 2021 commits. Benny Williams is an exciting five-star prospect, but he is also a one-and-done candidate. Adding former four-star guard and Marquette transfer Symir Torrence is useful with Richmond leaving, but his upside does not seem to be anywhere close to Richmond’s.
It is clearly going to be difficult to land recruits if it seems like there is major change coming in two years. Five-star point guard Dior Johnson was committed to the 2022 class, but decommitted in November.
Any one of the events happening is not enough to suggest that change is coming, but all of them coming together is worrying. All signs really seem to point to Boeheim being done in two seasons.