For a program that missed the NCAA Tournament (again) and dealt with the uncomfortable end for a legend, Syracuse is actually doing quite well, thank you very much. Adrian Autry slid confidently into the head coaching role, a former player who represents the glory years, and a longtime assistant who has led the recruiting efforts. Autry’s smile and authentic positivity stands out after decades of Jim Boeheim’s grouchy sarcasm. A toothy grin doesn’t win games, and plenty of young optimists have tried and failed in the college coaching ranks. But the fresh dynamic with Autry at the helm has felt good.
Did Chance Westry and JJ Starling Join SU because Boeheim Retired?
Has it also led to recruits giving SU a second chance? Both Starling and Westry seriously considered signing with the Orange when they made their initial basketball decisions. Starling was a local kid who knew the campus and what the names and banners that hung in the Dome represented. Starling chose Notre Dame over Duke, Syracuse, Maryland and Stanford, a curious decision considering Mike Brey was puttering to the end of his tenure, and the Irish hadn’t made the tournament in four years.
A Baldwinsville native chose a program who hadn’t been to the Big Dance since he was in 7th grade over SU or Duke? But just hours after Autry took over the program, Starling had come back home. His reasons? He was excited his family could now watch him in person. He liked SU’s style of play. He likely considered the unknown of Micah Shrewsbury taking over the program. But mostly, it was Autry. “The coaching staff at ‘Cuse are people I know I can put my trust in to handle and manage my career the right way.” Hmmm.
Westry made it 2-for-2 with former targets coming back. It was a disappointing season for Westry at Auburn, but in terms of March potential, the Tigers are cooking. Over the last 6 seasons, each year Auburn has been eligible and a tournament has been played, they’ve qualified and won an NCAA Tournament game under Bruce Pearl. They also made a Final Four in that span and won the SEC regular season twice. But there was something about Gerry McNamara and Autry that made Westry choose the Orange.
He told Mike McAllister, “(McNamara) was always real and always transparent. I appreciated that because the bond only got stronger from both parties keeping it real with each other.” He also said he believes in what Autry is building. Hmmm.
Did Westry and Starling Join SU because Boeheim retired? Boeheim was clearly old school, a man who knew exactly what he wanted from players for 47 years. The scheme was set. His ways were inflexible. His snarl and combativeness became exhausting for many. Boeheim certainly reeled in an impressive class two years ago, and has landed a number of solid recruits recently. So it’s not fair to say every high school prospect didn’t connect with him. But Starling and Westry put SU in their finalists bucket, but ultimately decided to go elsewhere. Until Boeheim retired. And then something changed. Whatever that reason is, Syracuse has been the beneficiary.