‘I’ve been very lucky’: Jim Boeheim officially exits at Syracuse after 47 years | college basketball Story-level
Basketball Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim’s 47-year tenure as head coach at Syracuse came to an awkward end Wednesday when the university said Orange assistant Adrian Autry had been promoted to the job.
The move came less than three hours after Syracuse lost to Wake Forest in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, after which Boeheim hinted at his retirement but said it would ultimately be the university’s decision.
Then came the news from the school: “Today, as his 47th season as coach of his alma mater comes to a close, so does his storied career at Syracuse University. Associate Head Coach Adrian Autry ’94, one of Boeheim’s former players and a long-time assistant, has been named the program’s next head coach.”
Autry has been on the Boeheim staff since 2011 and held the title of associate head coach since March 2017.
The 78-year-old Boeheim’s record in his 47 seasons, officially, was 1,015-441. That reflects 101 NCAA win-snatched violations between the 2004-07 and 2010-12 seasons.
Whether the count was 1,015 or 1,116, only Duke’s now-retired coach Mike Krzyzewski had more wins than Boeheim at the Division I level.
“As I’ve said from day one when I started working here, the university hired me and it’s their choice what they want to do,” Boeheim said Wednesday afternoon. “I always have the option to retire, but it is his decision if I am a coach or not. It always has been. Once again, I’ve been very lucky to be able to coach my varsity team, play and then be an assistant coach and then head coach, without having to leave Syracuse. It’s a great university.”
It was a mixed final press conference, with Boeheim hinting at retirement and hinting that he would like to return.
Clarity came soon after. And for the first time since 1976, someone other than Boeheim is now Orange’s head coach.
“I have no doubt that without Jim Boeheim, Syracuse Basketball would not be the core program it is today,” Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a statement distributed by the school. “Jim has invested and dedicated most of his life to building this program, cultivating generations of student athletes and representing his alma mater with pride and distinction. I express my deep appreciation and gratitude to an alumnus who embodies what it means to be ‘Forever Orange.’”
Boeheim has ruled with Syracuse for more than six decades. He was born in the city of Lyons, in central New York, not far from Syracuse. He enrolled in the school in 1962 as a walk-on, eventually becoming captain of the then-Orangemen along with Dave Bing.
In 1969, he was hired at Syracuse as a graduate assistant. And in 1976 he took over the program. He has been the face ever since; even the field in the dome where Syracuse plays its home games has been named after him since 2002.
“There will never be another Jim Boeheim,” Buddy Boeheim, one of Boeheim’s sons who played for him at Syracuse, tweeted Wednesday. “The best coach, father and mentor you could ever ask for. A man who gave a city, program and university everything he had his whole life with countless achievements. Excited for a lot of golf in our future, love you dad.”
The Orange went 17-15 this season and will miss the NCAA tournament for the second straight season. That drew criticism, which raised questions about the future of Boeheim and what the school would ultimately decide.
“It’s an honor to play for Coach Boeheim,” Syracuse’s Benny Williams said after the loss to Wake Forest. “For as long as I can remember I’ve been watching Syracuse basketball from Jeremi Grant to Dion Waiters and those guys. The biggest lesson I’ll take away from Coach Boeheim is to just go about my business every day and be a man.”
And there, no doubt, had been a dip in success.
Syracuse hasn’t won 20 games in any of the past four seasons. It was a far cry from the glory days when the program won the NCAA title in 2003 and reached the Final Four four other times. Syracuse reached the NCAA tournament 34 times with Boeheim, winning 10 Big East regular season titles and five more titles in that conference tournament.
“I’ve been so lucky to be able to train in Syracuse, a place that I love, a place that I love to live,” Boeheim said. “People keep wondering about it, but maybe it’s a flaw that I have. But I have lived in Syracuse all my life and I hope to live there for a long time to come. I think it’s a great place.”
Now it’s Autry’s turn. He was expected to be the next manager for some time; the question was always when.
He played 121 games in his four seasons with Boeheim and then spent more than a decade on the bench under his former manager.
“There have been very few stronger influential forces in my life than Syracuse University and Jim Boeheim. They have both played such important roles and without either of them, I’m sure I wouldn’t have this incredible opportunity before me,” said Autry. “I have spent much of my time in the game of basketball learning from Jim and am very grateful to him for preparing me to continue the winning tradition that is Orange Basketball.
“It’s hard to imagine a world without him in the dugout, but together with our coaches, student-athletes and fans, we will build on decades of success as a winning program.”