The table below should illustrate to any fan of Syracuse basketball just how bad the program has been outside of one magical year with Carmelo Anthony and two exciting runs through the Big East Tournament with Gerry McNamara. In the past decade, Syracuse University achieved 62% of their BET wins, 100% of their BET titles, 57% of their NCAA appearances, 73% of their NCAA wins, 67% of their Sweet 16 appearances and 100% of their Final Four berths when one or both of those players wore an SU uniform? How can we describe the other six years in the past decade when Jim ‘Pittsburgh’ Boeheim was left to his own devices to propagate his “prevent offense” and brilliant defensive schemes? EPIC FAILURE! In 1999, SU loses in the first round of the NCAAs as the worst-seeded (9-Seed) Syracuse team in school history. In 2000, Syracuse becomes the first Big East team to lose in the opening round of the Big East Tournament as the top seed. Two weeks later, Syracuse blows a 19-point second half lead en route to being BLOWN OUT in the Sweet 16. Don’t worry. It gets worse. In 2001, Syracuse suffers their worst NCAA defeat in school history against Kansas in the second round of the NCAAs. There you have three straight seasons of worsts and negative firsts. But more importantly, the 2000-2001 season remains the last time Jim ‘Pittsburgh’ Boeheim took Syracuse to the NCAA tournament without Gerry McNamara on the roster! Let that statement sink in for just a few seconds. That was eight years ago.
|Syracuse Teams||Seasons||BET Wins||BET Titles||NCAA Appearances||NCAA Wins||Sweet 16s||Final Fours|
|With GMac and Melo||1||1||0||1||6||1||1|
|Without GMac or Melo||6||5||0||3||3||1||0|
The table above should speak volumes to you about how little Jim Boeheim means to Syracuse success and how much a few select players in Syracuse history mean. You should know those players by heart. There are basically five players that are the difference between Jim Boeheim being a HOF coach and being a bum.
1) Derrick Coleman (11 NCAA Wins, 3 Sweet 16s, 1 Final Four)
2) Sherman Douglas (10 NCAA Wins, 2 Sweet 16s, 1 Final Four)
3) John Wallace (8 NCAA Wins, 2 Sweet 16s, 1 Final Four)
4) Gerry McNamara (8 NCAA Wins, 2 Sweet 16s, 1 National Title)
5) Carmelo Anthony (6 NCAA Wins, 1 Sweet 16, 1 National Title)
Let me break this down for you. The 1986-87 season was Syracuse’s first trip to the championship game, due to the fact that the SU roster was laced with five future NBA draft picks after having just lost three players to the NBA draft, one of them being Pearl Washington. That year was already Jim Boeheim’s 11th season as head coach, and not one of his teams had yet reached the Sweet 16. Sherman Douglas and/or Derrick Coleman subsequently brought Syracuse to the Sweet 16 three times between 1986 and 1990. Those five years are the basis of Jim Boeheim’s legacy, and that success was brought from the fact that twelve future NBA draft picks graced Syracuse rosters during that time.
In 1990-1991, the wheels began coming off the wagon. That team, led by Billy Owens, lost only six games all season. Unfortunately for SU, they not only lost in the first round of the BET (a big upset) but then became the first #2 seed to ever lose in the first round of the NCAAs (an even bigger upset). The 1991-92 team follows Boeheim-form and loses in the second-round of the NCAAs, the 1992-93 team misses the postseason completely because of NCAA probation, the 1993-94 team breathes a bit of life into the program by advancing to the Sweet 16, only to see the 1994-95 team bow once again in the second round.
Let’s set the stage here for who I think in the most important figure in Syracuse basketball history, John Wallace. Since 1990, Syracuse had been knocked out of the BET in the first round three out of five years, advanced past the second round of the NCAAs only once, was still wrapped in the dark cloud of NCAA probation, had just lost three starters including the All-Time Big East scoring leader Lawrence Moten, and did not bring in a single notable recruit. John Wallace was projected as a late first-round draft pick and considered leaving for the NBA. Syracuse basketball was in the toilet. The end for Jim Boeheim was as near as Wallace saying “I forgo my senior season for the NBA draft”. Instead, John Wallace returns for his senior season and carries a rag-tag group of nobodies (no other NBA draftees on the roster) on his shoulders all the way to the NCAA Championship game against Kentucky, where his 29-point performance at the Meadowlands in New Jersey was not enough to reach the pinnacle. Of course the following season without Wallace the team was awful, missed the NCAAs, and failed to win 20 games.
Wallace may not have brought home the trophy like GMac or Melo, but what he did was save Syracuse basketball and Jim Boeheim’s job, whether people ever give him credit for that or not. Syracuse may have only won five NCAA tournament games in the six years that followed Wallace’s magical season, but imagine how bleak the future would have been if Wallace’s exploits had not brought players like Jason Hart, Etan Thomas, Ryan Blackwell, Allen Griffin and Damone Brown to Syracuse? Well, it would have looked a lot like 1996-97 when SU missed the dance and 2001-02, when Wallace’s magic had worn off and Syracuse lost in the first round of the BET and again missed the dance.
The stage was set for the arrival of GMac and Melo. In 2000-2001, Syracuse was exposed in the second round of the NCAA tournament as being woefully under-talented and was beaten by nearly forty points by Kansas. Syracuse had just missed the NCAA tournament in 2001-02 and was losing three starters off that team to the tune of 42.2 PPG. Syracuse basketball was in the toilet, again. Thankfully, Jim Boeheim’s assistants were able to recruit two gentlemen by the names of Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara, who immediately formed the best freshmen tandem in the country, and joined by fellow freshman Billy Edelin who anchored Syracuse’s bench, led the Orange to their first and only national title.
Five years later, Syracuse fans are waiting for the next John Wallace or Carmelo Anthony to rescue us from the bad coaching that defines Jim Boeheim and the disappointing and underachieving play that currently defines Syracuse basketball. We have already been waiting five years for another NCAA win. Hopefully the next “Boeheim Savior” comes along soon.