“I’m not Derek Jeter. There will be no farewell tour,” he told Sports Illustrated in 2015.
It was in that same year that Syracuse designated Mike Hopkins, a former Syracuse player who was an assistant coach at the time, as the head coach in waiting. Two years later, Hopkins grew tired of waiting and took the head coaching job at Washington, where he continued to coach this season.
“He’s given his heart and soul to that school. I’m still surprised they don’t have a statue,” said Hopkins, who was an assistant under Boeheim for 22 seasons. “You think of Syracuse University, you think of Jim Boeheim.”
Boeheim has had transcendent stars from time to time — most notably Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman and Carmelo Anthony — but his adherence to a matchup zone defense has been as defining a characteristic of Syracuse basketball as his team’s orange uniforms. He was as known for the zone defense as Bob Knight was known for the motion offense or Pete Carril was known for the Princeton offense.
“To have the — just the belief in a zone to never get out of it,” New Mexico Coach Richard Pitino, son of Rick, said of Boeheim’s adherence to the tactic. “I mean when somebody hits a 3 versus a zone, I get out of that the thing so fast.”
As college basketball evolved into a more wide-open game, the Orange stuck steadfastly to the zone and when their teams were good, they often befuddled opponents in the N.C.A.A. tournament who were not used to seeing it. As a No. 11 seed, Syracuse upset San Diego State and then West Virginia to advance to the round of 16 during the 2021 N.C.A.A. tournament.
It was an especially gratifying run for Boeheim given that his youngest son, Buddy, was the team’s star.
Boeheim also coached his son Jimmy, and when both players exhausted their N.C.A.A. eligibility, some fans thought it would be the perfect time for their father to exit, too. But Boeheim instead said he would continue and indicated at times that he could coach into his 80s.
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