Dr. Renee Baumgartner has only witnessed two seasons of Syracuse Orange men's basketball as a member of the university's athletics staff.
Yet as Syracuse University's Deputy Athletics Director/Chief of Staff with Herman Frazier, those two seasons have both been ripe with Orange positivity in the face of adversity.
At the end of the regular season, coming off their second loss to their 80-plus year rival, the Georgetown Hoyas, having only scored 39 points in 40 minutes, the Orange received a special visit from someone who previously played under head coach Jim Boeheim. "It was at the team's banquet, and Etan Thomas, he played in the NBA for 12 years, got up there and talked about how they're a great team, they need to move forward, they need to play together, and it was very inspirational for everyone in that room," said Baumgartner. "And I really believe that that was the beginning to the great things that have transpired over the last several weeks."
Despite a loss to the Louisville Cardinals in the championship game, Syracuse went on to win three straight games to advance to the final Big East Conference Tournament match after hearing those words from Thomas.
They have since won all three of their contests in the NCAA Tournament to attain a spot in the Elite Eight for the second season in a row.
"I know that they work hard every day in practice," Baumgartner stated. "They believe in each other. They work together. They communicate well. They're following coach [Jim Boeheim]'s system. I mean, obviously, he's put a game plan in place and they believe in it. And when you believe, good things happen. And so, I think it's a combination of a lot of different variables and now's the time to play well and they're definitely doing that."
Baumgartner noted the importance of Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim in the team's success, both in the present and in years past. "We're really lucky to have him on our team," Baumgartner expressed. "Obviously, he's a hall-of-fame coach, but he really knows how to coach in very difficult situations and he brings out the best in each and every student-athlete."
Attending games as a working professional for Syracuse, Baumgartner still has fun watching the team play. "Yeah, it's fun, it's great," Baumgartner remarked. "Just you wanna make sure that the student-athlete experience is the best it can possibly be and if they win, it just helps that experience."
The Orange administrator understands that in order for those wins to occur, Syracuse University needs more than just the team to perform well. "It takes a lot of people, a village, to get something like this to transpire and we're obviously looking forward to playing a game against Marquette and seeing where we can take it from there," Baumgartner said, heading into the Elite Eight with the entire Syracuse community.