Syracuse Basketball…The Number One Topic in Upstate New York

Jim Boeheim as a player at Syracuse University 1964-1966


It’s mid August, so who’s thinking about basketball?
Around here, it seems everyone is.
Syracuse basketball.  To me, it appear it’s the number one topic when I run into folks.

I understand. I too, care about the fortunes and future of the Orange.
Let’s face it. It’s a part of me. When I was a freshman, Syracuse hoops was a  mere whisper. At one time in my early years they lost 19 straight games.

As a freshman and sophomore, I broadcast several games at the old Onondaga War Memorial.  The joke was, there were so few fans in the place, I couldn’t get too excited because the players would hear me!

I was at the mike when Manley Field House opened.

Fred Lewis became the head coach and he changed the uniforms and the culture. He recruited the great Dave Bing. Added other top-ranked high school players, and took on a fellow named Jim Boeheim from Lyons, NY, a walk-on, and that was the beginning.

But they were just the freshman team.  The varsity was nothing like the frosh, but then, in the second year, the Orange gained a bid to the NIT.  It was an amazing and rapid turnaround and Syracuse basketball was on its way.

The Big East was a monster conference and Syracuse was smack in the center of it.
If you’re from this area you know the story.  The season’s and the records. No need to go into specific detail other than to say Syracuse became a perennial national power.

This brings us to present. People ask me why the Orange have slipped.

Well, they did reach the Final Four only two seasons ago.

But they ask about the departure of Mike Hopkins, the coach-in-waiting forever, who abruptly up and left for Washington after the past season.

There is no question it was a loss for Syracuse. Hopkins was young, talented, a brilliant recruiter and the obvious successor to Boeheim.

But it’s not going to happen.  Now what?

Jim Boeheim will continue as head coach for the foreseeable future.

He is delighted with that.  Syracuse got a rough penalty from the NCAA, and stripped Boeheim of wins he accomplished.  That doesn’t fool anyone.  Boeheim is a 1000-win coach whether you use the eraser or not.

Syracuse now plays in the rough-and-tumble ACC.  Funny, I thought of some of those other powers from the old Big East, and wondered if Georgetown, St.John’s, Boston College and some of others were better off than Syracuse now.  They’re not.

Recruiting has been more difficult. As Boeheim himself has said, the big-name prospects are not all what they’re pumped up to be.

Jim wants to continue and why not?  His son Buddy will be recruitable for a possible SU career. Who doesn’t want to coach his son?

We all know Syracuse basketball has to take the next step. It’s as matter of life, no matter what sport or career.  I can vouch for that.

But the next head coach of the Orange better be the right guy.

We’ve seen what happens when the school goes way outside to get their man.

This region is special. It takes a coach who understands where he is, to make it work.

I know, Hopkins was from California, but he was here long enough to become entrenched in what Central New York is all about.

A change is in the offing. No one can deny that.

But let’s not forget that the ONLY reason why Syracuse University has been a basketball powerhouse for decades is because of the ability, dedication and passion of Jim Boeheim.

When the time is right, the next era will begin. Until then, let’s all live in the present and root hard for a better campaign as we always do, savor the accomplishments and stature of Syracuse basketball.

It has been wonderful!