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ESPN’s Thamel: Autry, Not McNamara, Deserves SU Job

Credit Caleb Jones/Courtesy File Photo

With Syracuse men’s basketball well past its premature 2021-22 finish line and the NCAA Tournament hitting full force today, the end of basketball season is in sight. However, Syracuse basketball’s constant speculation on the future of its head coach has no such offseason ahead of it. If anything, conversations surrounding head coach Jim Boeheim’s future have only intensified after the program’s 16-17 finish that capped its first true postseason-less year since 1969-70.

For his part, Boeheim has expressed frustration at the incessant buzzing about his supposed retirement that he insists isn’t coming anytime soon. He’s given his word to the incoming Class of ‘22 to be sure, but Boeheim also talked at length earlier this month about a supposed “succession plan” in place. Among the names most likely to fill the position are two from Syracuse’s current staff: assistants Gerry McNamara and Adrian Autry.

Both men have credentials that span back to their playing days at SU, but that hasn’t stopped Syracuse media and fans from hedging their bets on one or the other. On Wednesday, Class of 1999 Syracuse graduate and current ESPN senior writer Pete Thamel spoke about the future of SU’s head coaching position on fellow ‘Cuse grad Adam Schein’s podcast.

“My hunch is – and this is not any inside info – that this is his [Boeheim’s] last year…If I was a betting man, I think Red [Adrian] Autry…is the next head coach there. I think he deserves to be the next head coach there, I think he’s been the best of the assistants.” (Pete Thamel, The Adam Schein Podcast 3/16/22)

Thamel’s hunch is one likely shared by about half of SU’s fanbase. The other half probably likes McNamara for the job. It’s hard to argue one way or another because both men have such similar resumés since entering the coaching world. Both were successful SU players. Autry has been involved for longer, but McNamara has certainly been in the mix for several years and earned high praise from one of Boeheim’s sons

The one thing that tangibly works in Autry’s favor is that his fingerprints are all over the last decade of Syracuse basketball. Autry was the main driver in securing players like Tyler Ennis, Marek Dolezaj, and now Justin Taylor in the Class of ‘22. McNamara nearly hooked a colossal fish in Class of ‘22 guard Dior Johnson, but GMac and SU painfully learned that no recruit is safe in this era of quick-trigger decommitments and transfers. Outside of Johnson, McNamara’s concrete recruiting successes include Bourama Sidibe and Joe Girard – solid players, but not quite the multi-faceted success stories that Autry can point to.

“He’s [Autry] an excellent on the court coach…he’s a beloved figure in the community, he’s an excellent basketball coach who’s kind of done his time and waited his turn.” (Pete Thamel, The Adam Schein Podcast 3/16/22)

Ultimately, Thamel’s praise of Autry being a solid X’s and O’s coach could very well apply to McNamara. His quotes could very well apply to either man. However, none of us without direct inside knowledge of the program or Boeheim’s mysterious “succession plan” know enough to make any conclusions. The race seems too even to not be decided by whatever politics are in play on Syracuse’s staff. 

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