The school’s subsequent news release contained quotes from Autry, Syracuse’s chancellor and its athletic director, but none from Boeheim. The announcement did not specify that Boeheim was retiring, instead sharing the news that “as his 47th season coaching his alma mater comes to an end, so too does his storied career at Syracuse University.”
“Jim is a rare breed of coach, building a program that is among the best in college basketball for nearly five decades,” Orange AD John Wildhack said in a statement released by the school. “I am incredibly grateful for what he has done for Syracuse Basketball, Syracuse Athletics and Syracuse University as a whole.”
Boeheim, who played at Syracuse 1963 to 1966, became its head coach in 1976 after serving as an assistant for the previous seven seasons. He went 1,116-441, but had 101 wins vacated by the NCAA because of rules violations.
His departure comes less than a week after Syracuse celebrated the 20th anniversary of its 2002-03 squad that won the NCAA men’s tournament for the only time in school history. Before that, Boeheim led two teams to the National Championship game and, in total, he coached five teams to the Final Four. Inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005, the number of Division I victories Boeheim has racked up — whether one goes with 1,116 or the NCAA’s official tally of 1,015 — is second only to the 1,202 accumulated by former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“There is no doubt in my mind that without Jim Boeheim, Syracuse Basketball would not be the powerhouse program it is today,” Chancellor Kent Syverud said in his statement Wednesday. “Jim has invested and dedicated the majority of his life to building this program, cultivating generations of student-athletes and representing his alma mater with pride and distinction. I extend my deep appreciation and gratitude to an alumnus who epitomizes what it means to be ‘Forever Orange.’”
Autry, 51, played point guard for Boeheim from 1990 to 1994 and began his coaching career in 2006 at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Va. He went on to a brief stint at Paul VI High School in Fairfax, Va., and coached AAU teams in the region before getting a position with Virginia Tech’s program in 2008. He was hired by Boeheim as an assistant in 2011 and promoted to associate head coach six years later.
“There have been very few stronger influential forces in my life than Syracuse University and Jim Boeheim. They have both played such important roles and without either of them, I am certain I would not have this incredible opportunity before me,” Autry said in a statement. “I have spent much of my time in the game of basketball learning from Jim and am so grateful to him for preparing me to carry on the winning tradition that is Orange Basketball.
“It’s hard to imagine a world without him on the bench, but together with our coaches, student-athletes and fans, we will build on decades of success as a winning program.”
Over the decades, Boeheim recruited and coached a number of star players, including Carmelo Anthony, who helped the Orange win it all as a freshman in 2003 before going on to a long and decorated NBA career. Other notable players Boeheim brought to Syracuse include Derrick Coleman, Sherman Douglas, Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, Hakim Warrick, Billy Owens, Louis Orr, Rony Seikaly, John Wallace and Lawrence Moten.
After Syracuse played as an independent program for the first three years of Boeheim’s head coaching tenure, he emerged as a central figure in the Big East, which formed in 1979. As the conference quickly asserted itself on the national stage, Boeheim jousted on the court and exchanged verbal jabs off it with coaches like Georgetown’s John Thompson, Louie Carnesecca of St. John’s, Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun and, in later years, Villanova’s Jay Wright.
In 2011, two years before Syracuse decamped to the ACC, Boeheim said he was “unhappy the Big East broke up” but added that his program could “benefit from being in the ACC.”
“What matters if it’s Providence or it’s Wake Forest? Or Georgetown or Duke?” Boeheim said then. “As long as [Syracuse fans are] going to see great basketball. … It’s going to be a great basketball league and that’s all we care about.”
Away from the court, turbulent episodes for Boeheim included accidentally killing a man who was walking along a highway at night in 2019, when the coach swerved his car to avoid a vehicle stopped in the road. In 2011, Boeheim quickly changed his tone after receiving criticism for initially giving his “full support” to Bernie Fine, a longtime Syracuse assistant coach who was accused of molestation, and casting doubt on the credibility of Fine’s accusers.
Diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001, Boeheim underwent surgery and missed just three games before returning to the Syracuse sideline. While he was able to beat the disease relatively quickly, the experience turned Boeheim into an active fundraiser for cancer-fighting efforts and a regular source of encouragement for those suffering from it.
Following a strong start in the ACC win with a 28-win team in 2013-14 and a trip to the Final Four two seasons later, Boeheim’s fortunes began to turn. Over the past five seasons, the Orange have won 20 games once, and in 2022 the veteran coach suffered his first losing season at 16-17. Wednesday’s loss dropped Syracuse’s record this season to 17-15, including a 10-10 mark in ACC regular season play. The Orange appear set to miss the NCAA tournament for the third time in the past four years.
In February, Boeheim indicated that he wanted to return next season, telling ESPN, “I have no other plans. Listen, this has been the question of the day for 15 years. This isn’t a new question. It’s just the calendar going, ‘Well, he’s 78.’ It’s just the calendar. If it wasn’t the calendar, if I was 65, no one would be saying anything. And I’m not going to retire just because it’s the calendar. Anything can happen. Anything, literally. We’ll just see what happens. I don’t say anything because I don’t know.”
Shortly after those comments were published, Boeheim tweeted this statement: “As I’ve said many times previously, my employment as Syracuse men’s basketball coach has always been determined by the University. I was asked about the possibility of retirement and my answer was based on that.”
On Wednesday, Boeheim’s son Jimmy, who played at Syracuse in the 2021-22 season, wrote to his father on Twitter, “Time to enjoy retirement and teach me a thing or two on the golf course.”
Buddy Boeheim, another son who played for the Orange from 2018 to 2022, tweeted Wednesday, “There will never be another Jim Boeheim. The greatest coach, father, and mentor I could ever ask for. A man that gave a city, program, and university everything he had his whole life with countless accomplishments. Excited for a lot of golf in our future.”