SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Jim Boeheim has experienced a lot since the dawn of the new century — prostate surgery, a national championship, induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame and a pair of Olympic gold medals.
Yet even though it’s been 50 years since he enrolled as a freshman at Syracuse, the 68-year-old Boeheim just keeps rolling along, as intense and focused as ever in his 37th year at his alma mater, worried only about the next game when he’s not recruiting or raising money for cancer research.
“He hasn’t lost a beat,” said Boeheim’s wife, Juli. “Jim’s got an intense edge at all times.”
One that has brought him to the doorstep of another milestone – 900 victories. Sometime soon – the first chance comes against Detroit tonight in the Carrier Dome on the court that bears his name – Boeheim will join a most elite fraternity, one with only two other members – Mike Krzyzewski (936) and Bob Knight (902), the only men’s coaches in Division I history to reach 900 victories.
“The sooner we get through it, the better we’ll be able to focus on the season,” said Boeheim, 899-304 for his career after his fourth-ranked Orange (9-0) beat Canisius 85-61 on Saturday night. “This team does not care about how many wins I have. They care about getting the next win. That’s it. Everything else does not matter. It really doesn’t. I’m happy I’m still here.”
Even though his Orange have won more games the past three seasons than during any three-year stretch in his career and his program is probably better than it’s ever been, crossing another threshold on the victory list isn’t fodder for the dinner table.
“We don’t even mention it at home,” Juli said.
One of a vanishing breed, Boeheim has been head coach at Syracuse since 1976 and has never had a desire to go anywhere else. His first victory as a college coach was against Harvard in Springfield, Mass., a 75-48 triumph on Nov. 26, 1976.
After taking over for Roy Danforth, Boeheim’s Orange went 26-4 in his rookie season, losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“We were a good eastern program,” Boeheim said. “At that time, St. Bonaventure and Holy Cross were just as good as we were.”
Boeheim has transformed what was a sound program – Syracuse was 128-71 in eight seasons under Danforth, going 23-9 and reaching its first Final Four in the 1974-75 season – and taken the Orange to three national title games, winning in 2003.
Boeheim holds the Division I record for most 20-win seasons at 34, has 48 NCAA tournament victories (fifth all-time and one behind Jim Calhoun) in 29 trips, and tops the Big East with 402 wins.
Boeheim has been part of Krzyzewki’s staff for the past two Summer Olympics, and the two have formed a solid friendship.
“Jim is one of the great coaches of all time, and he’s an even better man,” Krzyzewski said.
“It will be an amazing accomplishment when he reaches 900 wins. What is even more amazing is that he’s done that at one school. Jim Boeheim and Syracuse University are synonymous. He has built one of the great brands in college basketball, one that has withstood the sport’s most unrelenting test – the test of time.”