Monday, February 28, 2005

The 700 Club

I've been a Syracuse college hoops fan since I was 11. It's a strange story but shows either my loyalty or lack of sense or both.

I was a sports fan from the time I started paying attention to the pros. So I always had to have a team in whatever sport. Many of them were inherited from my Dad: Yanks, Giants, Knicks. Another is one I got my Dad to like: the Islanders (and good timing too, just before they reeled off the 4 Cups in 1980-83). I picked Penn State because they were on TV locally every Monday with highlights before the MNF game. And when my Dad groused that I should pick a college hoops team from NY I said, "Is Syracuse in NY? Then I'll pick them."

Twenty-four years later and I'm still a diehard. It took 16 years to live down the loss to Indiana in the '87 title game (still hurts) and one freshman forward to completely amaze me.

This year, SU has been a bit disappointing because it's 0-4 against BC, Pitt and UConn and should have won the two home games in those four. But the season has one huge achievement, and will end up with three other important ones: Jim Boeheim's 700th career win and the graduation of Hakim Warrick, Craig Forth and Josh Pace.

Boeheim took a lot of heat for allegedly getting too little out of great players -- supposedly typified by SU's loss to Richmond in 1991, even though his players tended to become pros and graduated with decent frequency (not Notre Dame, but not Cincinnati either). Then, he caught it for not graduating players in the early '90s. But over the past 10 years, Boeheim has taken midlevel teams to good heights, graduated players, guided his players more actively, been the leader in the Coaches vs. Cancer fundraising program and finally reached the ultimate height of the profession. Congrats Coach Boeheim.

Here's an encomium from Bob Knight:
I think that what he has done is develop his own style of play, particularly from the defensive aspect of things with the zone, and has made it pay off in as many situations as often as anybody who's exclusively used a zone. He's stuck with it. I think that's a unique thing for a coach to have done. I don't think there are many coaches who develop a trademark of how they play.

And his team has been a team that has always played hard. Here's a team that's difficult to beat because they have been very well taught how to play the game. I've always enjoyed watching his teams play because they're set up in a unique way, and one of the things that is most impressive about any coach is someone who has set up a system and made it work. And he's done that.

Go Orange.

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