INDIANAPOLIS – At the end of his post-game interview, Jim Boeheim laughed. Usually as bubbly as a week-old cup of Pepsi, it sparkled a bit Sunday night after Syracuse upset West Virginia.
He told extensive stories, including one about his eighth grade guidance counselor. He generously praised his players. And there was that verifiable smile-laugh. Boeheim is smashing parentheses as a double-digit seeded (again), with a team led by his son (his first), and life is suddenly beautiful for coach Gloomy.
“Sweet Sixteen is hard to do,” Boeheim said in her early 20s, an amazing body of work. “When I started training… some of them, I don’t even think we celebrated, probably 10 of them. We just think that’s what we’re supposed to do. But is very difficult “.
So yeah, the 76-year-old coach from Orange is going to embrace this one. It is enjoying a third Sweet Sixteen in the last five tournaments, with seeded teams 10, 11 and 11. The worst thing that can happen to teams in the Big Dance is to attract a Syracuse team that is barely faltering in the field, because the Orange are coming for you.
Even if the current edition of Orange doesn’t make the Final Four, as they did in 2016, this might be the sweetest of Boeheim’s septuagenarian tournament races. Because junior guard Buddy Boeheim is the guy to leave.
He scored 25 points Sunday against the Mountaineers, 23 of them in the second half. That was two days after he dropped 30 at San Diego State. He has already made 13 triples in this tournament, in 23 attempts. Buddy is in a tear that conjures up memories of another of his father’s favorite guards, current assistant coach Gerry McNamara.
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This is even more noteworthy considering that Buddy didn’t look much like a Syracuse-level prospect for much of his high school career. Senior high last name, major middle game. The 247 recruiting website gave it three stars; Rivals gave him none, but listed him as the 43rd shooting guard prospect in the class of 2018.
Dad finally decided that Buddy had done enough at Brewster Academy, a preparatory school in New Hampshire, to earn himself a spot on the list. (It is not known if his wife, Julie, influenced that decision.) But even then he had a lot of work to do – defense, strength, diversifying his game beyond being an immobile shooter – to break his father’s rotation.
Jim eventually moved Buddy to the starting lineup for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament at the end of his freshman season. He hasn’t left it since. On Sunday night he topped Eric Devendorf for fifth place in school history in triples, now 220. It seems easy to move to at least second by the time he’s finished, and possibly even make a run on the school record for McNamara 400 if you take advantage of the extra year of NCAA eligibility.
“He’s become a really good player,” Jim said of his son. “He works harder than anyone who has ever trained, and he’s not close.”
Despite the work ethic, which often includes multi-hour shooting sessions in the family home gym, Buddy hasn’t always been imbued with confidence. Jim said his oldest son Jimmy, who left Cornell after the Ivy League shut down athletics during the 2020-21 school year, is the unsuspecting one.
“I have two children,” Boeheim said. “If you describe Jimmy, he plays golf. He hits 10 out of bounds in a row, and he thinks the eleventh will go into the hole at par 4. Buddy can play ten good holes and one bad hole, and he thinks the next one will be bad. .
But Buddy has gotten better. He now believes in himself one hundred percent, and it has taken him a while to get to that point. “
Well, maybe not one hundred percent. Buddy said he still benefits from McNamara’s pep talks from time to time, including one at halftime Sunday. “I don’t care if you miss 200,” McNamara told him. “Keep shooting.”
He kept shooting. And they began to enter. And they practically never stopped. His last three were confidence personified: Syracuse’s lead up to a point, Buddy completely covered, and he got up and shook it anyway. That was the start of a 10-0 streak, and all Orange had to do after that was avoid a total meltdown against the Mountaineers press to walk away with a win and strut into another Sweet 16.
“I can’t even describe it,” Buddy said. “Something that I dreamed of all my life. This means everything. If you asked me a month or two ago where I think we would be, I don’t think I’d say Sweet 16, that’s for sure. “
On February 6, Syracuse was 10-6 and had lost league games by 17 (Clemson), 23 (Virginia) and 20 points (Pittsburgh). Sixteen days later they went to Duke and were defeated, surrendering 50 in the first half. But when the schedule hit March, Orange beat North Carolina, Clemson and North Carolina successively. When they lost in a ring blow in the ACC tournament against Virginia, they had barely done enough to get onto the tournament field.
During the season, Boeheim’s critics emerged as they occasionally do. Loitering around the bubble had gotten old for many of them, and their trainer was old, and some were eager for new blood.
“All those things on the Internet, not a single phrase on the Internet matters,” he said. “Not one.”
There will be lots of cute quotes about Coach Gloomy and his shooting star son this week. And lots of broken parentheses, thanks to another Syracuse run, it’s sweet enough to make even Jim Boeheim laugh.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.