Jim Boeheim has not be shy in talking about the end of his tenure at Syracuse. He teased the existence of a contingency plan for when he eventually steps down. The 77-year-old coach has been with the university since 1969 and it feels like he has been on retirement watch since at least 2015.
He even went as far as to announce that he would be retiring in 2018. He made that announcement in 2015, giving him a three year lead up and plenty of time for Syracuse to find a successor.
Longtime assistant coach and former player Mike Hopkins was thought to be the coach in waiting. However, when Boeheim announced he would stay longer after his son Buddy enrolled at Syracuse, Hopkins decided he did not want to wait any longer, leaving to coach Washington.
Credit to him, because Boeheim is still planning to coach the 2022-2023 season and Hopkins deserved a shot to be a head coach.
There a few assistants on staff now that could be in line for a chance whenever Boeheim does retire. And that time is coming. The key to knowing when could boil down to just one number.
As many Syracuse fans know, the NCAA stripped Boeheim of 101 wins stemming from improper benefits given to student athletes. The announcement from the NCAA in March 2015 also included a nine-game suspension for Boeheim and a reduction in scholarships. At the time, Boeheim was closing in on 1,000 wins, sitting at 966. Instead, he suddenly found himself nearly 150 wins away from that milestone.
There was some speculation that Boeheim would retire at the end of the season. After all, it had the possibility of a storybook ending. Boeheim was coaching his two sons, Jimmy and Buddy, and with a deep NCAA Tournament run, Boeheim could sail off into the sunset with a dream season that added to his already outstanding legacy.
Instead, for the first time in his storied tenure, Boeheim ended with his first losing season, finishing at 16-17. He announced at the end of the season that he was returning, though this is also when he brought up the “ironclad” succession plan that teased he knew exactly when he would finish his coaching career.
But maybe it was never about just coaching his sons in his final season. Perhaps it was all about hitting a milestone number. At long last, Boeheim is on the precipice of “officially” reaching that mark. Students stormed the court on Feb. 2, 2017 when Syracuse upset No. 9 Virginia, which on the official record books was Boeheim’s 899th career win.
A little math gets you to 101 without the lost victories from the NCAA penalties. While Boeheim officially handed out 1,000 losses after that game, there is something different about getting to 1,000 wins in the eyes of the NCAA.
Boeheim now sits at 998 career wins. Even if SU has a mediocre season, Boeheim should still sail past the official 1,000 win mark with ease, meaning that the 2022-23 season could be his last.
But there’s still a milestone beyond that, perhaps.
Recently, outgoing Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski celebrated his 1,200th win as a college coach. If you recount the 101 wins that were taken away, Boeheim is currently sitting on 1,099 wins, and may be aiming to chase down his close friend and rival.
Depending on Syracuse’s success (or lack thereof) over the next few seasons, Boeheim could surpass that in 3-4 seasons. That would take him to 80 years old if he’s able to do it in three seasons, or 81 if he has to coach four more seasons to pass Krzyzewski.