Breaking down Syracuse in the post-Jim Boeheim era

by 24USATVMarch 9, 2023, 4:20 a.m. 20

Jim Boeheim arrived at Syracuse in 1963 as a walk-on guard from nearby Lyons, New York, who had dreamed of playing for his favorite school. After his playing career ended, he stayed and became an assistant. In 1976, he was named head coach.

But the reign of a leader who directed his team to five Final Fours has ended.

On Wednesday, a day after Syracuse lost to Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC tournament, the school announced the head coach -- who took the helm four years before Mike Krzyzewski arrived at Duke -- would not be returning next season.

The consensus had always been Boeheim would never willingly leave the program he has been attached to for nearly six decades. It never reached that point. The school reportedly made the decision, and now Adrian "Red" Autry, who played for Boeheim and served as his assistant, is the new head coach at Syracuse.

Autry had long been the administrative choice to be Boeheim's successor, according to sources. The 1994 grad has been part of the Syracuse staff since 2011.

Twenty years after its lone national title run, Syracuse will have to adjust to a new landscape -- consisting of the transfer portal, name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities and, most importantly, without Boeheim -- to return the program to prominence.

Where does Syracuse go from here without Boeheim?

Syracuse tries to recapture the success it enjoyed consistently under Boeheim up until about a decade ago. The Final Four runs the Orange made in 2013 (as a No. 4 seed) and 2016 (a No. 10) were postseason successes that offset what, on the whole, has been an era of regular-season disappointment. The Orange's record in ACC play has been at or near .500 in each of the past nine seasons. Under a new coach, there will be far fewer questions about the future of the program. This is a brand-name basketball team with a rabid fan base and a glittering roster of past stars, starting with Carmelo Anthony. Syracuse goes onward and upward from here. -- Gasaway

How did Autry become Boeheim's successor?

Whenever Boeheim's looming retirement was mentioned over the past 10 to 15 years, the assumption was always that Syracuse would keep it in the family when tabbing his replacement. It was long expected to be Mike Hopkins, who was the coach-in-waiting for a few years before leaving to become the head coach at Washington in 2017. Over the past couple of years that left Autry, 51, and Gerry McNamara, 39, as the logical candidates -- both former Syracuse players, both current Syracuse assistants. But Autry has more coaching experience and is ready to take the reins of the program. He is a proven recruiter, especially in the Washington, D.C., area, and few people have a better understanding of Syracuse basketball. -- Borzello

What challenges does Autry face in the coming days as the new head coach?

Given Autry played under Boeheim and has been on his staff since 2011, the continuity issues that face most new hires might not be as big an issue for the Orange. But Autry will still face challenges in building a competitive roster for next season. Judah Mintz, the team's second-leading scorer this season, is projected just outside the second round of June's NBA draft. Benny Williams fell in and out of favor under Boeheim but finished the season playing well. Essentially, the entire roster is eligible to return for another season, so Autry being able to retain this group is imperative. On the recruiting trail, the Orange only have one commit for 2023-24 and one commit in the 2024 class. Autry will have to get to work on building future rosters too. -- Borzello

What will Syracuse expect of Autry in the long term? What will he have to do to ensure his success?

Last summer, I flew to Syracuse to talk to Boeheim about his future. A few things stood out. First, Boeheim was so much more than a basketball coach. He was an emperor up there, for better or worse. Second, he had no interest in adapting to a new world with NIL and the transfer portal. "We're not paying players," he said.

Syracuse doesn't have a choice but to lean into this new era of college basketball, if the goal is to return to perennial prominence. Autry also has to act like a politician -- and that will be the most difficult component of this job. There's a segment of this fan base, including a lot of the old money, that still loves Boeheim. Autry has to be sensitive to that as he creates his own culture without offending a group of supporters who've loved Boeheim for five decades.

The expectation will be the same as it is for any coach: win, recruit, thrive in the NCAA tournament and do it all over again next year. But Autry will be asked to be more than a coach. That's an unfair magnifying glass for any head coach, even one who played for and coached at the school.

Can he satisfy everyone? Even Boeheim couldn't, toward the end. Autry will do his best. If he can get things back on track in the next few years, he'll get the support. -- Medcalf


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