First, the 1987 title game when Keith Smart drilled a baseline jumper that cemented Smart in college basketball lore robbed Boeheim of a championship. Then an inexperienced Orangemen team didn't stand a chance in the finale of 1996.
But after Boeheim finally hoisted a championship plaque after the Orangemen defeated Kansas, 81-78, in the title game of 2003, Boeheim, as calm as ever, gave his classic shrug, gave the credit to his players and fans, and quietly set off into the night.
But Boeheim, considered a class act by many, deserved the victory. He meshed a pool of young talent into a championship team, defying odds and critics. All year, the Orangemen were considered too young, too small and too inexperienced to get far in the tournament. Syracuse didn't enter the top 25 until January and after a somewhat disappointing Big-East tournament, was given a lesser seed in the NCAA tournament.
Still, Boeheim coached his team every step of the way, somehow finding a roll where Billy Edelin, who missed all of last year and 12 games of this year after being suspended, could flourish. He was able to blend the ego of lottery-bound Carmelo Anthony and distribute the shots among a variety of stars. He had the zone working to perfection and knew what buttons to push to give his team the best chance to win.
Anthony followed his 33-point outburst against Texas in the semifinal with a 20-point, 10-rebound effort against Kansas. Gerry McNamara couldn't miss in the first half and set the tone for the rest of the game. Then Josh Pace came in and grabbed eight rebounds and provided a set of runners and jumpers to the tune of eight points. Kueth Duany added two more huge 3-pointers.
Then again, it wasn't all Boeheim's effort that won him the game. The Jayhawks played a roll in their own demise. Kansas missed 18 free throws (12-for-30) while connecting on just four of 20 from downtown.
Reason and reason, however inconsequential or as obvious as the smile draped across Anthony's face as his cut down the nets, Boeheim deserved to win.
His renowned shrug hid nothing. It wasn't that Boeheim wasn't happy; he was. But a coach who for 27 years roamed the sideline with a casual demeanor, anything outside of his shrug wouldn't have been in character.
He's never been an eventful kind of person. He walked on to the basketball team. He did his time as an assistant coach. No fanfare surrounded Boeheim when he finally found his way to the head-coaching job.
Perhaps a shrug was the appropriate way to end the season. After all, it was only a matter of time before Boeheim won. It was his moment to shine. It was his championship to win.
Boeheim's time was coming
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