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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Jim Boeheim is out after 47 seasons; Adrian Autry named next Syracuse basketball coach

Gonzaga coach Mark Few, right, chats with Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim before the start of their Sweet 16 game on March 25, 2016, at the United Center in Chicago.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Mike Waters and Chris Carlson Tribune News Service

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Jim Boeheim is out as Syracuse men’s basketball coach after 47 seasons, bringing an end to one of the most historic tenures in college basketball history.

Boeheim’s exit will result in associate head coach Adrian Autry assuming control of the program. Autry has been an assistant on Boeheim’s staff since 2011.

Promoting Autry keeps the job in the Syracuse family. He will succeed college basketball’s longest-tenured coach.

The university announced the men’s basketball coaching transition in a news release Wednesday night. There was no mention that Boeheim is retiring in the news release and no statement was attributed to Boeheim.

Instead, the university said Boeheim’s 47th season and storied career “comes to an end.”

The university’s handling of the news raises the question of whether Boeheim is willingly ready to step down from the program.

The news comes hours after Boeheim cryptically hinted at his retirement following his team’s loss to Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament but said that his future would be left up to the university.”

It comes on the heels of a nostalgic weekend when the 2003 team was honored on the 20th anniversary of its NCAA championship. Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick, Gerry McNamara and many former players were in attendance for what was Boeheim’s final game coaching in the JMA Wireless Dome on Saturday.

In 47 seasons, Boeheim’s teams have made 35 NCAA Tournament appearances, advanced to five Final Fours and won one national title.

He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.

Boeheim ranks second in Division I men’s coaching victories with 1,116, though the NCAA vacated 101 of those wins after an investigation into the program in 2014-15. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is the only men’s coach with more wins at 1,202.

“There is no doubt in my mind that without Jim Boeheim, Syracuse Basketball would not be the powerhouse program it is today,” Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a statement. “Jim has invested and dedicated the majority of his life to building this program, cultivating generations of student-athletes and representing his alma mater with pride and distinction. I extend my deep appreciation and gratitude to an alumnus who epitomizes what it means to be ‘Forever Orange.’ ”

The Orange rank seventh on the list of all-time wins by a college basketball program. More than half belong to the coach known nationally as the master of the 2-3 zone.

Boeheim brought 47 NBA draft picks to upstate New York during his career as a head coach, was an assistant on three gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic teams and used his profile to raise millions for local charities.

“I have spent my entire career surrounded by the biggest and best names in professional and intercollegiate athletics. Few people are on the same playing field as Coach Boeheim,” athletic director John Wildhack said in a statement.

“Jim Boeheim is synonymous with excellence, grit and determination. Jim is a rare breed of coach, building a program that is among the best in college basketball for nearly five decades. I am incredibly grateful for what he has done for Syracuse Basketball, Syracuse Athletics and Syracuse University as a whole.”

A native of Lyons, New York, Boeheim arrived on the Syracuse campus in the fall of 1962 after being invited to walk onto the basketball team by then-coach Fred Lewis. Boeheim joined a recruiting class that was highlighted by future Hall of Famer Dave Bing, who would become one of Boeheim’s best friends.

Boeheim would earn a scholarship and played on the varsity squad from 1963 to 1966. Those teams resurrected a dormant program. The 1966 team advanced to the East Region finals of the NCAA Tournament.

Boeheim became a graduate assistant under SU coach Roy Danforth in 1969. He rose to full-time assistant in 1972 and after the 1975-76 season succeeded Danforth as Syracuse’s head coach.

Boeheim was as a fighter, one that would battle for his team and his players, for his school and his reputation. He wanted to win at everything, from the game to the news conference.

The pairing of an underdog mentality and an underdog city led Boeheim to decades of success while he frequently courted controversy by speaking his mind and his program was found twice to have broken NCAA rules.

He was notorious for being hard on his own players and defending them just as vigorously from others.

He criticized reporters for naming Magic Johnson the MVP of the Carrier Classic in 1977 over Marty Byrnes after the Orange won the event, saying it was a mistake that would only happen in Syracuse.

He delivered a memorable line after opposing coaches questioned the performance of Gerry McNamara in an anonymous poll, saying the team wouldn’t have won 10 games without him. McNamara responded to the passionate defense by leading the Orange on a surprise four-game run to a Big East Tournament title and an NCAA Tournament bid.

Boeheim and Syracuse won the second-longest game in college basketball history, a six-overtime thriller against Connecticut in the 2009 Big East Tournament.

Saturday’s game against Wake Forest marked Boeheim’s final one on the court that bears his name.

In his first four years, Syracuse played at Manley Field House, losing just one game in that span – a loss to Georgetown near the end of the 1979-80 season after which John Thompson uttered his infamous “Manley Field House is officially closed” line.

In 1980, Syracuse moved into the spacious Carrier Dome. Syracuse capitalized on its role in the new Big East Conference plus an influx of top-tier talent, including Pearl Washington, to fill the cavernous football stadium with crowds of more than 30,000 fans.

Syracuse became one of the Big East’s standard-bearers as Boeheim convinced the likes of Derrick Coleman, Billy Owens, John Wallace and, eventually, Anthony, to play for the Orange.

All that success turned Boeheim into Central New York’s most prominent person. The team became a local passion. His life turned into a public fascination.

He celebrated milestone moments, and he celebrated milestones that the NCAA forbid the school from recognizing. He coached against great rivals like John Thompson III and great friends like Krzyzewski.

He coached through grief after the deaths of former players, friends and peers. He coached after missing just three games after surgery for prostate cancer in 2001. He coached days after inadvertently hitting and killing a local man, Jorge Jimenez, in a car accident on an icy night in 2019.

Boeheim was expected to step down before the 2018 season and hand the program over to long-time assistant coach Mike Hopkins. That plan blew up when Hopkins accepted the head-coaching position at the University of Washington.

The canceled succession plan cost Syracuse a key assistant and led to constant questions about when Boeheim would step away and what might come next for the program.

Boeheim stayed, and Syracuse has sputtered to a 111-83 record in the five-plus seasons since, all of which have come as the program competed in the Tobacco Road-centric ACC.

Syracuse left the Big East in 2013 and has not finished higher than sixth in the ACC since its inaugural year in the conference. Last year, Syracuse suffered its first losing season in Boeheim’s tenure, going 16-17 with a team that included Boeheim’s sons, Jimmy and Buddy.

This year, Syracuse sported a 17-14 record going into the ACC Tournament.

Boeheim fought against the tide of it all, just like he has his entire career, frequently bristling when questioners would ask when he might choose to retire.

He built a reputation for standing by his school. During a period when coaching salaries grew exponentially, his contracts remained reasonable compared to his peers. When other coaches hopped around in order to make more money, he remained in place.

The school also stood by him.

It kept him as head coach through occasional periods of middling performance, through a pair of NCAA probations and through accusations of sexual abuse against an assistant coach in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.

The NCAA penalties included postseason bans for violations that included a relationship with an agent deemed too cozy by the NCAA, members of the coaching staff and Boeheim’s administrative staff doing too much work on a paper completed by former player Fab Melo and a buffet of minor impermissible benefits that included free meals, free transportation and free legal work.

Long-time assistant coach Bernie Fine wasn’t charged criminally after two ball boys accused him of molesting them, but he was fired by the school in 2011. Boeheim eventually reached a settlement with the accusers after calling them liars at a news conference and being accused of defamation.

Together, the wins and the drama added up to decades in which the Syracuse men’s basketball program served as CNY’s winter soap opera and the greatest show in town.

The performance lifted SU basketball into rare air and Central New York onto a national stage, with Boeheim directing the action for many more wins than losses, for far longer than any of his peers.

He won so much that, warts and all, he became the face of a basketball program. And a university. And a city. And a region.

Now, after 47 years, Boeheim is done with both the losing and the winning, leaving everyone else to grapple with what the future looks like without him.