During his first press conference after being named the new head coach at Syracuse, Adrian Autry spoke about how he wanted to maintain the program of the culture that Jim Boeheim had built over 47 years as head coach but put his own spin on things. The biggest spin is likely to be more man-defense than Boeheim ever played. Still, further than that, it’s how Autry runs the program to fulfill his vision and play to his roster’s strengths: athleticism, versatility, and intensity.
The Orange have been practicing as a team since the summer, with returning players mixing with new guys to the program to create a new culture under Autry and his assistant coaches, Gerry McNamara, Allen Griffin, and Brendan Straughn. Plus, per the players, practices have added competition to the group, on top of building chemistry between the guys.
“It was really just running, mobility, building up to it. It was fun. It was us finding a way to compete,” sophomore Quadir Copeland said to syracuse.com’s Donna Ditota. “That’s what Coach at the end of the day wanted to get us into. He would say, ‘You gonna let him run by you like this?’ It makes the whole environment better.”
Specifically, with the switch to more man-to-man defense, players are going to be tasked with more responsibilities and communicating on that end of the court. SU returns a lot of players from last season, including all six of the players from its 2022 recruiting class: Copeland, Judah Mintz, Justin Taylor, Chris Bell, Maliq Brown, and Peter Carey. For those guys, it’s an adjustment, but with a lot of time spent working on it before the season, it’s settling in.
“There’s more to cover when we’re playing man-to-man. So we’ve been working on that. But he also just brings a ton of energy,” Taylor said to Ditota and syracuse.com. “We’re doing a lot more defensive stuff. The 2-3, we would go over it last year. With man-to-man there’s so many coverages to go over – ball screens, help, all that kind of stuff. That definitely takes up a lot of time.”
Those six players, Benny Williams, and Mounir Hima make up the returners on the roster who played exclusively zone last season, but newcomers JJ Starling, Chance Westry, Kyle Cuffe, and Naheem McLeod did not, and that helps with the switch to man-defense for everyone, because there are guys on the roster who have played it at the college level before. So, for Mintz, the logical leader and best player on the team, getting used to man in practice has helped the group in preparation for the season.
“First I’ll say with how much talent we have this year and playing each other man-to-man is like no other,” Mintz said to syracuse.com. “It’s different playing against your own teammates in a 2-3. It was a slower pace, a slower game that we played last year. This year we got so many athletes and so many talented players, when you play man-to-man and get up and down it’s just a different intensity.”
The Orange open the season on November 6th in the JMA Wireless Dome against New Hampshire. Before that, SU has two home exhibitions that will be a good indicator of how the Syracuse season will look, and how the Orange will play. We’ll have full coverage of every SU game at the Fizz for the entire season.