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Published: Wednesday, 4/2/2003

Boeheim's career lacks just one thing

Syracuse doesn't miss Derrick Coleman, Rony Seikaly, Pearl Washington, Sherman Douglas or John Wallace.

Forget the past. Jim Boeheim's current team led by freshman Carmelo Anthony is doing just fine.

Let it be known that Boeheim is a college basketball coaching luminary, which is not an opinion intended to invoke a debate over who's better, Boeheim or Kansas' Roy Williams - two successful, driven coaches who will each attempt to win his elusive first national championship at the upcoming Final Four.

A case can also be made that Boeheim is one of the most underrated and misunderstood coaches of his generation.

Boeheim belongs to a select fraternity of coaches. He has made Final Four appearances in three decades: 1987, 1996 and 2003.

His 25 winning seasons and .742 career winning percentage with Syracuse speak for themselves. The man can coach.

Anyone who's looking for reasons to disparage Boeheim's reputation is probably still looking.

OK, there's one criticism Boeheim hasn't been able to shake - his inability to win the big one. He's 0-for-2 in championship games. Fair enough.

But how many coaches wouldn't trade their country club memberships or their leased cars just for the chance to switch places with Boeheim?

Boeheim's 36 NCAA Tournament wins are the most of any coach who hasn't won a championship.

It's taken Boeheim a long time to shake the perception, fair or not, that he was a better recruiter than a strategist and that some of the talented players he recruited - Coleman, Washington, Seikaly and Douglas, in particular - performed poorly in the clutch.

Truth became mixed with fiction. But there was some truth.

Syracuse lost to Indiana in the 1987 title game on Keith Smart's infamous baseline jumper. Seconds earlier, Coleman had missed a bonus free throw that would have won it for Syracuse.

Boeheim's reputation took a turn for the worse after the Indiana loss. He was labeled a poor man's Guy V. Lewis, the legendary Houston coach who was accused of just rolling out the basketballs at practice.

Lewis' greatest failing was that he let his talented players play and that a lack of discipline resulted in a stunning defeat to Jim Valvano's North Carolina State Wolfpack in the 1983 championship game.

It didn't help matters that Boeheim was being compared to Big East Conference contemporaries John Thompson, Rollie Massimino and Jim Calhoun, who all won championships.

And by the way, that's a compliment to Boeheim. We easily forget how difficult it is to reach the Final Four three times.

I'm not saying Boeheim deserves a wing in the Hall of Fame. Doubt still lingers for some about Boeheim, who turned in his best coaching performance when Wallace carried Syracuse to the '96 title game. Boeheim will always have his detractors.

Winning, and doing it his way, is what makes Boeheim a success.

That's the beauty of Boeheim. He puts his teams in a position to win championships.



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