Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has been the head coach of the Orange for 45 seasons now, which is an incredible feat, especially in this day and age.
And one of the things that’s allowed him to be the coach at SU for so long is his eye for talent and developing his players for the next level. In fact, during his first 44 seasons at Syracuse, he has had at least one player on each of his teams go on to play in the NBA.
To be sure, there have been some lean years during that historic period of time. For instance, Syracuse fans fondly remember the 1996 NCAA Tournament run where John Wallace led the Orange to a title game, and gave star-studded Kentucky with nine future NBA players (nine!) all it could handle. What Orange fans may not remember is that Wallace was the only player from that team to go on to the NBA.
Other SU teams have been far more stacked with NBA talent. For instance, the 2009-10 Orange team had five players that would play in the NBA: Andy Rautins, Wes Johnson, Arinze Onuaku, Kris Joseph and James Southerland.
The main takeaway here is that up until the COVID-19 shortened 2019-20 season, Boeheim has always coached one NBA player.
This is illustrated in the below chart. (***Note: I did not include every single player who has played in the NBA under Boeheim. This chart is just to illustrate the unbroken chain of NBA talent that Boeheim has coached while at SU.)
|Louis Orr||1976 – 1980|
|Leo Rautins||1980 – 1983|
|Pearl Washington||1983 – 1986|
|Derrick Coleman||1986 – 1990|
|Billy Owens||1988 – 1991|
|Lawrence Moten||1991 – 1995|
|John Wallace||1992 – 1996|
|Jason Hart||1996 – 2000|
|Damone Brown||1997 – 2001|
|Hakim Warrick||2001 – 2005|
|Arinze Onuaku||2005 – 2010|
|Dion Waiters||2010 – 2012|
|Rakeem Christmas||2011 – 2015|
|Tyler Lydon||2015 – 2017|
|Oshae Brissett||2017 – 2019|
|Elijah Hughes||2018 – 2020|
Prettay prettay prettay prettay good, as Larry David would say.
The only issue now is keeping that streak alive through the end of Boeheim’s tenure.
There are no guarantees on the 2020-21 Orange team. The most obvious candidate at the moment is Boeheim’s own progeny, Buddy. Jackson Thomas Boeheim emerged as an NBA prospect at the end of the regular season, which extended into a magical Sweet 16 run for the Orange. Buddy was the primary reason for that run, averaging over 25 points during the ACC and NCAA Tournament, putting himself on the radar of NBA scouts.
Behind Buddy, there are a trio of players that possess borderline NBA talent, none of whom will be returning to the Orange next season: Kadary Richmond, Quincy Guerrier, and Alan Griffin.
Richmond seems to have the most upside of the three. As a freshman, Richmond averaged 6.3 points and 2.6 rebounds per game, and finished with KenPom’s 13th-best steal rate in the country. Richmond transferred to Seton Hall in the offseason, a painful loss for the Orange.
Alan Griffin declared for the NBA Draft after one season at Syracuse where he averaged 15.3 points and 6.6 rebounds, and was an All-ACC Honorable Mention. He’s not on the radar of any NBA mock drafts, but his father, Adrian Griffin, is an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors, and can perhaps guide his son’s development into an eventual shot at the NBA.
And then there’s Quincy Guerrier. He was the only Orange named to an All-ACC team at seasons end, finishing on the Third Team after averaging 14.5 points and 9.0 rebounds. Guerrier wanted to display his ability to create shots off the dribble and play on the perimeter, which belies is biggest talent (according to Boeheim), his interior play.
Guerrier announced his transfer to Oregon on Thursday, though he still remains a candidate for the 2021 NBA Draft.
Any one of the four playing a single minute in the NBA would continue Boeheim’s impressive streak. The odds appear to be in Boeheim’s favor.
The good news is that even if Boeheim swings and misses on NBA talent for the first time in his long tenure at Syracuse, the famine will not last long.
In the next two seasons, the Orange will bring in five-star talent who both ooze NBA upside. Benny Williams has signed his NLI and will play for the Orange this fall in a significantly less crowded front court than he had anticipated. And in the 2022-23 season, Kamari Lands, another five-star forward is projected to join Syracuse.
With Buddy out of eligibility following the 2022-23 season, it seems possible that Boeheim would retire with his outgoing (hopefully NBA-bound) son. If that were the case, he could retire with never having not coached an NBA talent in each of his 47 years at Syracuse.