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I felt like I was watching “About Schmidt,” the Jack Nicholson movie from 2002 about a man retiring from the Woodmen insurance company in Omaha, Nebraska.
The film opens on Schmidt’s last day at the office, and he does not look like he wants to leave. Then he gradually goes nuts.
But this was Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s press conference on Wednesday after a 77-74 loss to Wake Forest in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The Orange finished 17-15 – another disappointing season.
Boeheim is 78, so every year has been seen as his potential final season since 2018 when he was going to retire but didn’t.
His voice was shaky, though, this time, and he was more emotional than usual. A player to his far left, Barry Williams, even looked over at him hard at one point with concern.
Finally, someone asked Boeheim the obligatory question he has been getting asked for years now late in seasons – “Have you thought about anything in terms of what you’re going to do next year?”
“As I’ve said since day one, the University hired me,” said Boeheim, who was hired as a graduate assistant in 1969 at Syracuse, soon becoming a full-time assistant coach and then head coach in 1976.
He walked on as a player in 1962 before rising to team co-captain with Dave Bing. “And it’s their choice what they want to do.”
Jim Boeheim Did Not Sound Ready For Retirement
They should’ve given him a parade. Or done something. Even Notre Dame coach Mike Bray celebrated in a bar with fans.
Yes, Boeheim can be a real jerk at times, but it’s not like he has ever been an all-out bully and borderline psychopath like, say, Bobby Knight.
And Boeheim did take Syracuse to five Final Fours (1987, 1996, 2003, 2013 and 2016) with a pair of runner-up finishes. Knight beat him, 74-73, in 1987 in New Orleans on a fortunate jumper by Keith Smart with five seconds to go. The play was not designed for Smart to take the shot.
There was another bridesmaid finish in 1996 against Kentucky and coach Rick Pitino, who was Boeheim’s first assistant hire when he became Syracuse’s head coach. They roomed together on recruiting trips.
Boeheim finally got his national title in 2003 in New Orleans again with an 81-78 win over Kansas. He reached the NCAA Tournament an incredible 34 times and won 10 Big East titles. He never tried to go anywhere else.
Boeheim finishes at 1,015-441, excluding 101 wins taken away by the NCAA for violations from 2004-07 and from 2010-12. But it’s not like he was cheating like, say, Will Wade.
Only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who retired last year at 75, has more wins with 1,202. And Coach K got a retirement party tour that lasted a year. Of course, Coach K did make up his mind. Maybe Coach B did not.
Yes, Boeheim hasn’t won 20 games since the 2018-19 season, but how about a little something for the effort?
Maybe a nice announcement, Syracuse? Instead of just throwing something together on a Wednesday afternoon.
“I always have the choice of retirement, but it’s their decision as to whether I coach or not,” Boeheim continued. “Always has been.”
Here’s an exchange from the postgame presser before Syracuse basically wrote Boeheim’s Syracuse obit.
QUESTION: “You’re going to retire?”
BOEHEIM: “This is up to the University.”
QUESTION: “You want to come back?”
BOEHEIM: “I didn’t say that.” … Laughter in the press conference.
QUESTION: “But what are you saying?” … More laughter.
BOEHEIM: “I think I just said it. I don’t know.”
QUESTION: “So you don’t know? OK.”
BOEHEIM: “I said this is up to the University.”
QUESTION: “How will you make a decision about if you will come back?”
BOEHEIM: “You’re talking to the wrong guy.” … Laughter.
After the players answered a few questions about the game, another reporter said, “Jim, I’m confused. Do you want to come back? Or did you just announce your retirement without actually announcing your retirement?”
BOEHEIM: “No, it’s up to the University. They have to make their decision. And it’s up to them. I hope we can come to a good agreement. But that remains to be seen. All right, is that clear?”
More laughter, which meant, “No” on clarity.
“That’s as clear as I can make it,” Boeheim said.
Yet, Boeheim also said at this weird gathering that he gave his retirement press conference on Saturday after a win over Wake Forest that ended the regular season.
“I think you missed it,” he said. “Nobody figured it out.”
Nobody had this one figured out either.
Syracuse Finally Made A Statement
A couple hours later, though, Syracuse made it crystal clear with a statement.
“Today, as his 47th season coaching his alma mater comes to an end, so too does his storied career at Syracuse University,” the statement said.
And that was it. After 47 years? Sean Payton got to talk about himself for about two hours when he left the Saints. North Carolina’s Roy Williams waxed on for an hour when he retired in 2021.
Then Syracuse named Boeheim’s successor, so obviously this has been in the works. And obviously this could have been handled much better with a kinder and gentler press conference before the tournament.
Of course, Boeheim may have thrown a wrench in that. That’s how he is.
“Associate head coach Adrian Autry has been named the program’s head coach,” Syracuse’s statement said. Autry, 51, played for Boeheim and has been an assistant under him since 2011. He has been the associate head coach since 2017.
Like Schmidt, who pitifully tried to come back and help his replacement, Boeheim pitifully wants to come back to a desk at Syracuse, as Coach K has at Duke and Williams has at North Carolina.
“Mike Brey’s thrilled that he was at Notre Dame 23 years,” Boeheim said. “He’s a puppy. I’ve had 47 years.”
Brey also gets a cushy post-retirement job at Notre Dame. Boeheim wants something like that.
Jim Boeheim Wants Another Job At Syracuse
“The University hasn’t offered me anything, whether to work or do anything at the University,” Boeheim said. “That’s their choice. It was great to see Mike at Duke and Roy at North Carolina. And Mike Brey’s going to work for Notre Dame. That’s great. I haven’t had any conversations about that. I hope that we will. But I’ve just been lucky to be able to coach this long.”
Boeheim’s salary in the current and last year of his contract is $2.8 million. Sounds like he’ll gladly take a pay cut.
Surely, Syracuse chancellor Kent Syverud can find something.
“There is no doubt in my mind that without Jim Boeheim, Syracuse basketball would not be the powerhouse program it is today,” Syverud said in a later statement. “Jim has invested and dedicated the majority of his life to building this program, cultivating generations of student-athletes and representing his alma mater with pride and distinction. I extend my deep appreciation and gratitude to an alumnus who epitomizes what it means to be ‘Forever Orange.'”
Yeah, but Kent, do you have a desk for Boeheim somewhere?
Maybe not in public relations. But something. So he can call Roy and Mike and Coach K at their desks to check on the paperclips or something.
He deserves it.
One CommentLeave a Reply
There are only two ways Syracuse didn’t completely f this up; either it was Boeheim’s idea or they told him quit or be fired and he wouldn’t quit, so instead of firing him they announced it the way they did. Otherwise, he deserved a LOT better no matter how big an ass he could be to the media.