It’s impolite to take shots at a legend who is no longer on the sidelines. Jim Boeheim single-handedly built Syracuse into a national brand, and made basketball the signature program at his alma mater. There is plenty of appreciation for that. This piece is focused more on the new regime, and the early returns on the new era appears to have suddenly freshened up everything, like a cleaning service called in to gut a hoarder’s home. Adrian Autry is cleaning up Syracuse’s cobwebs and recruiting is evolving.
Donnie Freeman’s commitment is yet another huge victory for Autry, and his explanation of why he chose SU is even more eye-opening. Here’s the punch list for SU since Boeheim retired:
- JJ Starling commitment (5th overall transfer prospect via 247 Sports).
- Chance Westry commitment (44th overall high school prospect).
- Donnie Freeman commits (32nd overall high school prospect).
- Freeman says Autry is tossing the zone
Those are some big bullet points. Starling famously grew up in Baldwinsville, in the shadows of the Carrier Dome, and decided to attend Notre Dame. As detailed here at the Fizz, there were probably a few Irish-related dynamics in play, but clearly something changed about SU when Autry was promoted to head coach.
The Freeman quote carries even more weight, though.
“They told me they will be dropping out of the zone and we’ll see more man principles. This style of play fits me perfectly because I get to show my athleticism, agility, and things like that. No knock on the zone, but man will help me showcase my game better.”– Donnie Freeman
Well damn, that’s one way to shake things up. Autry is telling players they will evolve away from the identity that made SU for 45 years. He is marketing to a long, rangy, 6’9″ power forward is going to be tasked with actually defending another player, instead of stationary inside an imaginary box. Interestingly, Freeman says the staff told him they’d be getting “back to the tradition Syracuse has had in the past.” Wherever the thinking stems from, it’s a massive step forward for a program that had calcified in recent years.
In just two months, Autry is cleaning up Syracuse’s cobwebs. He has proven he is a pine tree air freshener in a musty ’82 Honda Civic. There’s no guarantee it equates to wins, and perhaps there will be bellyaching about his coaching decisions this winter. But for the moment, SU has a brand new smell.