on Jim Boeheim’s 900th career win at Syracuse
STILL THE (#) ONE
Jim Boeheim deserves every accolade that comes his way in the wake of his 900th career win. The Syracuse coach became only the third men’s college basketball coach to reach that lofty plateau when the Orangemen defeated Detroit Monday night, joining Duke coach Mike Krzysewski and the retired Bobby Knight. It’s unlikely that Boeheim will catch Coach K, who has 936 wins and still counting, but he’ll likely top Knight’s 902 win total before Syracuse opens Big East play against Rutgers on January 2nd. The third ranked Orange have walkover games against Temple, Alcorn State and Central Connecticut between now and then. By the turn of the year Knight will be in third place on the all time list, but he should still be considered the number one men’s college basketball coach of all time. Much more than numbers went into the record Knight compiled. He coached most of his career in a far different era from the one in which Krzyzewski and Boeheim spent most of their time. For the first three quarters of Knight’s forty one year career the season didn’t begin until the weekend after Thanksgiving and a team had to reach the national final four to play in more than 30 games. The season began with the Tip Off Classic in Springfield, the Birthplace of Basketball, the night after Thanksgiving and teams began practice on October 15th. The NCAA seeing nearly four weeks lead time as sufficient, moved the start of practice back to November 1st, but coaches argued they needed more prep time and successfully lobbied for a return to mid October. No sooner was that legislation in place than coaches started scheduling games three weeks after the start of practice, suddenly more than enough time, opening the regular season the first week of November. Further coaches legislation led to exemptions for games played in early season tournaments and by the mid 90’s every league, even the Big Ten, had gone to league tournaments, as many as five extra games counted as one. Today just about every NCAA Tournament team plays 35 games while final four teams play 40. Coaches learned if they wanted 25-30 win seasons all they had to do was legislate them. Twenty win seasons were as easy as scheduling them. Knight’s philosophy, particularly in the days when automatic NCAA entre came only with regular season league titles, was play as hard a schedule as possible in December to get ready for conference play. When his 1975 team went 32-0 in winning the national crown they played #2 UCLA on a neutral court, at Kentucky, unbeaten St. John’s at Madison Square Garden and Notre Dame on the, then, abbreviated pre league slate. This year Duke scheduled Florida Gulf Coast, Delaware, Temple, Cornell, Elon, Santa Clara and Davidson ahead of the ACC, Syracuse went with San Diego State, Wagner, Princeton, Colgate, Eastern Michigan, Long Beach State, Monmouth, Temple, Alcorn State and Central Connecticut ahead of the Big East. If you want a 20 win season, just schedule one. Within two weeks Bobby Knight will be third on the all time win list but, love him or hate him, love or hate his methods, graduating every player, never drawing NCAA sanctions, among college basketball coaches he will never take a back seat to anyone. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.