SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Jim Boeheim called it just another number. The message board in the Carrier Dome didn’t agree.
Moments after his third-ranked Syracuse Orange held off Detroit for a 72-68 victory Monday night in the Gotham Classic, making Boeheim just the third Division I men’s coach to reach 900 wins, Hall of Famer Dave Bing, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Louisville’s Rick Pitino offered congratulations on the big screens inside the Teflon dome as the hometown faithful cheered.
Boeheim, 68 and in his 37th year at his alma mater, is 900-304 and joined an elite fraternity. Krzyzewski (936) and Bob Knight (902) are the only other men’s Division I coaches to win that many games.
“To me, it’s just a number,” said Boeheim, whose first victory was against Harvard in 1976. “If I get 900, have I got to get more? That’s why maybe it’s just not that important to me because to me it’s just a number, and the only number that matters is how this team does.”
So far, it’s done OK.
James Southerland had 22 points for Syracuse (10-0), which increased its home winning streak to 30 games, longest in the nation. Detroit (6-5) had its four-game winning streak snapped.
Bing, Boeheim’s college roommate, teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, and Roosevelt Bouie, a star on Boeheim’s first team in 1976-77, were in the Carrier Dome crowd of 17,902.
Bing was standing tall in the locker room after the game.
“Nobody would have thought when we came here 50 years ago that either one of us would have had the kind of success we’ve had,” said Bing, today the mayor of Detroit. “I’m so pleased and proud of him because he stuck with it. He’s proven that he’s one of the best coaches ever in college basketball, and he’ll be No. 2 shortly.”
Boeheim was presented a jersey encased in glass with 900 emblazoned on it.
“I’m happy. I’ve stayed around long enough. I was a little nervous,” Boeheim said at center court. “I’m proud to be here. To win this game is more pressure than I’ve felt in a long time.”
Boeheim was effusive in praise of the support the team has received Syracuse has had 71 crowds of over 30,000 since the Carrier Dome opened in 1980.
“The support of fans cannot be overestimated,” he said.