First, if Keith Smart’s baseline jumper rattles out, at this temporary historical intersection The Per’fesser and The General would have the same exact resumes. 901 wins apiece. Two national championships.
Second, Boeheim used his post game platform to stump for gun control. Which was was just another example of him choosing purpose over popularity.
On the topic of his resume, Boeheim is considered a tier below Bobby Knight, Coach K, Roy Williams, Adolf Rupp, Dean Smith, Jim Calhoun, and John Wooden. Sure, he’s in the basketball Hall of Fame. Everyone knows about his three Final Fours, and one national title. But the SU program, for all of its undeniable success, has often been haunted by tournament voodoo. Knight is viewed as an old school taskmaster, a throwback from a bygone era. He’s the hoops version of Woody Hayes or Bear Bryant, a disciplinarian who had startling success. The last undefeated champion in ’76. Three titles. Four national coach of the year honors.
But imagine the Smart shot missed. What would’ve happened if Boeheim had nabbed that first championship in ’87? Maybe the program expects to cut down the nets every year, instead of becoming a Buffalo Bills of the NCAA tourney. Maybe the ’88, ’89, ’90, and ’91 versions create a mini-dynasty? Maybe by the time Carmelo comes to the Hill, there’s multiple championship banners hanging inside the Dome. And maybe Boeheim is right there on the same mountaintop as the Mount Rushmore names in college hoops history. Ultimately, one jumper may have altered the entire course of events. A Superdome Butterfly Effect. JB doesn’t get the overall respect he deserves because of the lone national title, and ensuing tourney exits.
Meantime, his post game words on gun legislation in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings shows just another opportunity Boeheim refused to pander to the populace.
“This will probably offend some people. If we in this country as Americans cannot get the people that represent us to do something about firearms, we are a sad, sad society. I’m a hunter. I’ve hunted. I’m not talking about rifles. That’s fine. If one person in this world; the NRA president, anybody, can tell me why we need assault weapons with 30 shots in the thing. This is our fault. This is my fault and your fault. All of your faults if we don’t get out and do something about this.’’
“I saw one guy, a representative I was very proud of, somebody in his state had just come out and said ‘We need more guns. We don’t need less. We need to give teachers gun so they can shoot people.’ Yeah, that’s really good thinking to do that.
“If we can’t get this thing done, I’m with the mayor of New York City, if we can’t get this thing done, I don’t know what kind of country we have. This is about us. This isn’t about the President or those other people down there (in Washington D.C.). We have to make them understand somehow that this needs to get figured out. Real quick. Not six months from now.’’
Whether you agree or disagree with his stance, this perfectly defined who he is. He took a night-long celebration of his career, and dared to challenge the public from his pulpit. How many coaches or players take a moment of adoration, and uses it to store debate? He likely upset a number of hard core Syracuse fans with those comments. But he’s never needed anyone to like him. He’s ignored the media love fest. He’s been a crusty, cranky, defensive, combative man of conviction and beliefs. He hasn’t played the role of cuddly ol’ ball coach. And that has also underscored why Boeheim has achieved what he has.
Last year he lashed out at the accusers of Bernie Fine, and eventually had to apologize. He stood firm on the Fab Melo mess. He’s boxed with the Post-Standard. He’s stuck his chin out and dared anyone to take a swing. That fighter’s mentality has fueled him to four decades as one of the best programs in the nation. Last night said it all about Boeheim and his Syracuse basketball empire. Happy 900, coach.