Boeheim sees great success, great change
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – On the afternoon his Big East broke apart, Jim Boeheim sat at his desk and witnessed the 34-year-old league he watched become part of the fabric of college basketball reduced to tatters.
Boeheim, 68, is the last great lion remaining from the Big East’s glory days. He was there at its birth, dragged kicking and screaming, he says, into the league by former commissioner Dave Gavitt. And 37 years after accepting the $25,000 per year position as head coach, he was at his alma mater to witness the league’s final hours as the seven Catholic schools decided to depart. He looms as both a symbol of what the game was and whatever the game is becoming in this age of perpetual conference realignment.
“A sad day,” says Boeheim, who will move past Bob Knight into second place on the all-time Division I men’s basketball wins list if Syracuse beats Rutgers tonight.
During a nearly two-hour interview with USA TODAY Sports, Boeheim ponders a league whose legacy is so intertwined with his own, a conference defined by transcendent players, cutthroat rivalries and iconic coaches. Without it, he says, there would be no 2003 national championship, no 2005 Hall of Fame induction, far fewer than 902 victories at one unlikely national power and no Olympic gold medals as part of Mike Krzyzewski’s 2008 and 2012 coaching staffs.
“You think of the icons,” Krzyzewski says, “the people who have won national championships and have brought great attention to an amazing conference. … To those of us who got in the coaching profession because of tradition and because of love for the game, I think change is much more difficult. I am happy he is coming into our conference, but I know he is going through a lot, making that change.”
Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced in the fall of 2011 that they would depart the Big East for the ACC. Boeheim did not make the decision, but he knows it had to be made. And he believes rivalries will quickly blossom in the new ACC, which will include what amounts to a Big East … [For more on Syracuse's Jim Boeheim sees great success, great change, click here.]