For the last two weeks, we took a look at the four main candidates likely to be in the conversation when Jim Boeheim retires. But, there are a couple of names who deserve a mention as well but may not be likely to get real consideration for the job.
Enter Allen Griffin.
Griffin joined the Orange coaching staff in the Spring of 2017 after spending the previous six years under Archie Miller at Dayton. The New York native played at Syracuse from 1997-2001 and was a two-year starter. Like many of the other Syracuse assistants we profiled the last couple of weeks, he had a strong playing career at SU.
Interestingly, Griffin has coached centers since coming back to Central New York, but he played guard during his career. The best case you could make about why Allen Griffin deserves consideration for this job is his strengths and accomplishments in player development.
Marek Dolezaj and Jesse Edwards are the two most obvious examples of players who came in unfamiliar with Syracuse basketball, and over their time at Syracuse became starters and extremely valuable players. A lot of that credit goes to Griffin for working with them in practice and the offseason.
Dolezaj may have not gained the weight and physicality Syracuse fans or coaches wanted him to, but his improvements over four years were subtle. From the 2018 Sweet 16 run to the run in 2021, Dolezaj was asked to do completely different things.
In 2018, the Slovakian was exclusively a forward, starting alongside fellow freshman Oshae Brissett. His passing and active defense were Dolezaj’s main attributes, but he was in no way a complete player. By his senior year, he had to be the starting center at just over 200 pounds and was on another Sweet 16 ride.
By that point, Dolezaj’s scoring prowess had emerged, along with his developed passing and defensive skills. Griffin’s work with Dolezaj at center that season was a tremendous resource and help, as he was SU’s only center option thanks to Bourama Sidibe’s injury. Dolezaj’s story is a success, with a lot of thanks to Griffin.
Then there’s Jesse Edwards.
Edwards came to Syracuse as a skinny kid from the Netherlands who spent a couple of years at IMG Academy but was still not fully enveloped in the game of basketball. Coach Griffin recruited Edwards and got him to SU, and has now spent the last three years building him into the player he is today.
As a freshman, Edwards played sparingly. Same as a sophomore. Until the end of the year. Edwards’ development started to show flashes in February/March of 2021, when he was banging bodies with the bigs of the ACC and in the NCAA Tournament. The time had come.
As a junior, the leap was here. Often the biggest progression for college players comes between their first and second seasons, for Edwards, it was a year later. The junior started every game for the Orange until his season-ending wrist injury in February.
To that point, he was averaging around 12 points and six rebounds per game, while also being one of the fiercest shot-blockers in the country. A lot of that is thanks to the coaching and hard work of Griffin. Practices, workouts, lifts, and more all contribute to a player’s development. Griffin’s relationship with Edwards makes a difference too.
Edwards will come back stronger than ever next season as Syracuse’s starting center, looking to build on his strong junior season that was likely to end in ACC Most Improved Player before his injury. That in large part is due to Allen Griffin.
Players want coaches who will make sacrifices for them, care about them, and build relationships. Griffin has done just that, and even though the sample size is not large, these two examples tell a lot about his candidacy and why he could be successful on the hill.