One on one with Gene Waldron

Gene Waldron was a contributor to four Syracuse teams under Jim Boeheim in the early 1980s. CuseNation.com caught up with Waldron to break down this year's team, changes in Jim Boeheim and more.

Gene Waldron played for Syracuse under Jim Boeheim from 1980 through 1984. He was a three-year starter who averaged 9.3 points and 4.2 assists per game during the 82-83 season, while shooting nearly 53% from the floor.

Waldron was a senior when Pearl Washington joined the Orange. He moved from point guard to shooting guard that season, but had a career performance against Iona. He scored 40-points on 13-17 shooting to earn the Carrier Classic MVP.

CuseNation.com caught up with Waldron to get his thoughts on the Syracuse program and the 2013-14 version of the Orange.

CuseNation.com: What is your life like now?

Gene Waldron: "Right now, I'm a supervisor at the YMCA in Liverpool. I run a teens program for guys and girls for the ages of 8 to 16. I do that on Mondays and Wednesdays, and then I do individual instructions on Friday. I also ref. I just take care of myself and do the things that keep me healthy."

CN: What are your impressions of the 25-0 Syracuse Orange?

Waldron: "I think probably one of the biggest impressions is how well they stay together as a unit. When the game is on the line, it's not one guy. They do it as a unit. Over the years and even when I played, it was very rare that you saw that. It's very, very special in terms of when it's crunch time and they come together. I think that's just a sign of a great team.

"I also think you need to give a lot of credit to the assistant coaches. When you sit and watch the games, those guys aren't sitting with coach Boeheim. Those guys are sitting between the players and coaching them. That's a great plus especially when it's ex-players that are sitting on the bench in the coaching staff. They are doing a heck-of-a job and aren't getting a ton of credit. But they're a big reason why they're 25-0."

CN: Why is Syracuse so successful down the stretch of games?

Waldron: "I think one of the biggest things is that you trust in one another. Everybody knows their role. You don't see guys doing things that they normally can't do or they don't do. These are the things they do in practice. What they do in practice, they bring to the game. I've been to some of the practices and what they do there is what they do in games. They work with one another.

"You can look at that N.C. State game, and when Rakeem Christmas stole that ball, they made three passes before they scored that ball. That's unusual. More times than not, you're going to see one guy get the ball and he's going all the way to try to do it himself. These guys don't do that. That's something you don't normally find. That's a very, very, very special thing."

CN: What is Syracuse's biggest weakness as they prepare for a championship run?

Waldron: "I don't really think they have a weakness. I think the biggest thing is just staying healthy. We've got to get Baye (Keita) back. Once we get him back, we just have to stay healthy. On offense, the offense is there. There's going to be nights when the ball doesn't go in the basket and you have to grind out wins. We've proven we can do that.

"That zone is so affective, teams are really not going to get up and score 70, 80 or 90 points on us. That doesn't happen because the defense is so affective in that zone. So the biggest thing for me is staying healthy. I think if we stay healthy, we have a great shot at going all the way."

CN: Why is the zone able to have so much success in modern college basketball?

Waldron: "One of the biggest things is you have to play your position. Just like playing man, you have to play your position. These guys are playing their position very well. They lull you into thinking they're going to come out and they half-fake out and come back in. They move really well. There's always contesting shots. It's very rare you see teams coming into a game and getting wide-open shots. More times than not, shots are contested.

"And again, there's a lot of length in that zone. You've got Baye and you've got Grant. These guys are just so long. The two guards up front, (Tyler) Ennis and (Trevor) Cooney, they're very, very active. It's one of those things where once you get going in that zone, it will suck you in."

CN: Do you think Tyler Ennis is coming back next season?

Waldron: "You know, that's probably a question he would have to answer. He's proven that he can play basketball. That I will say. I also think there's always room for improvement. That being said, if you're a first rounder and are going in the top-10, it's hard not to go. Because that's a lot of money. I don't know what his situation is, but if you're going to be a guaranteed pick, it's hard to turn that down."

CN: What are the differences in Jim Boeheim from when you played under him to now?

Waldron: "One of the biggest things is that the assistant coaches have more say. When I played, it was very rare to see the assistant coaches getting up during the game and talking to the players during timeouts or right before a timeout. These guys are so engaged. I think that's a big difference then. The assistant coaches are a little more engaged than I've ever seen them before.

"Another difference is that he has a group of kids that he doesn't have to say a whole lot. He tells them something and these guys go out and do it. Before the game in the locker room, he tells them what they have to do and they go out and do it. When he does have to get on them, these guys don't get flustered because they know it's not personal."

CN: How many more years do you see coach Boeheim coaching?

Waldron: "He'll know the answer to that. But right now, when you have a group of kids the way that he does right now, why would you want to leave? You don't want to leave too early and have those regrets. For me, I'll be honest with you, I don't ever want to see him go. He just does such a great job for the university and the community. There is going to come a time and only he's going to know that."

CN: Do you see another Final Four run for Syracuse this season?

Waldron: "If they stay healthy."


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