On a day when Hakim Warrick and his fellow Syracuse seniors had a memorable performance in their final games, all eyes were on a coach whose name emblazons the Carrier Dome hardwood in the waning minutes.
With his team's 91-66 win over Providence Saturday afternoon, Jim Boeheim notched career win No. 700, becoming just the 18th coach in college basketball history to reach such a mark.
"People ask me when I'm gonna coach, and I tell them I haven't graduated from the Harvard school of basketball yet," Orange assistant coach Mike Hopkins said. "When I go to work, I see the consistency, the greatness every day. He's (Boeheim) a genius and is arguably the best coach in college basketball."
Win 700 is just one more memorable number that have highlighted Boeheim's career; 27 seasons with 21 or more wins, 23 NCAA tournament appearances, a national championship, a Big East record 308 conference victories. Just weeks removed from becoming a finalist for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Boeheim continues to earn his place among the sport's elite.
As the seconds ticked off the clock, the coach known for his memorable quotes and entertaining sideline antics, remained subdued. By his own admission, Boeheim said he's never been interested in the attention.
"It was great to get this all done at once," Boeheim said. "It is a great day for this ball club and the fans. This is nice and I'm happy, but I have never been about records. I looked at this as a distraction, even for me. I want the players to get all the credit. Fans come to see the players, not coaches."
The 32,800 who filled the dome were treated to one of the Orange's most complete performances all season. In his final start in front of the home fans, Warrick did not disappoint. The man affectionately known as the ‘Philadelphia Flyer' notched a new career high with 36 points, making 12-of-14 free throw attempts.
Any questions Boeheim had about his team coming out tight were quickly answered as Warrick scored seven of Syracuse's first 10 points as the Orange jumped out to a 10-2 lead after just three minutes. The Orange would lead by as many as 12 in the first.
"My adrenaline was really pumping, and making my first jumper really got me going," Warrick said. "I knew I was going to go out there and have a big game and nothing different. I'm being more aggressive, moving without the ball, and getting up there and knocking down my free throws."
Warrick has scored 30 or more points in three of his last five games, all Orange victories. He shot 63 percent from the floor, bringing the crowd to its feet with nine of his now infamous dunks. His last scoring play fittingly came on a high-flying play; Warrick reached up to grab Gerry McNamara's alley-oop pass and threw it down with 1 minute and 23 seconds remaining in the second. Warrick, fouled on the play, sunk his final free throw to reach point number 36.
McNamara, who finished with 14 points and 10 assists, gave up a clean look from three to give Warrick the opportunity. He assisted on three of Warrick's dunks, all coming in the second half.
"What a way to go out," McNamara said of Warrick and the seniors. "Coach was so proud of the way they played. I love being a part of getting people involved."
He did just that with yet another ally-oop pass, this time to Craig Forth, stretching the lead to 20 at 82-62 at 4:20 in the second.
The Friars, losers of 10 games this season by 5 or fewer points, pulled to within 5 at the 11:23 mark in the second. Forth, who scored all six of his points in the second, pulled down an offensive board and hit the put back at 10:44, starting a 6-0 run over the next two plus minutes to stretch the lead to 11.
Providence could get no closer than eight the rest of the way. The Orange shot 68 percent from the floor in the second.
"This was one of the most emotional games I've played in," Forth said. Obviously winning the national championship was motional, but this is a more personal thing. It's been great running with these guys."
The Friars withstood an early first-half flurry from the Orange, tying the game at 33 with 3:00. Providence coach Tim Welsh, a former Boeheim assistant, borrowed from the playbook of his former mentor, switching to full-court pressure and increasing ball movement to find open spots in the middle of the Syracuse zone.
Providence trailed by just four at the half, despite having its All-American and conference player of the year candidate Ryan Gomes held to five points.
Gomes finished with 21. Randall Hanke, averaging four per game this season, came off the bench to score 14 in the first half. Saddled with foul trouble in the second, he finished with 22. The Friars bench outscored Syracuse's reserves 34-10.
Terrence Roberts, starting for a second consecutive time, notched a double-double in just 19 minutes of play. He scored 14 and pulled down 10 rebounds.
Orange senior Josh Pace was a model of consistency yet again, finding room in the lane to score 11 points and pull down nine rebounds. Syracuse outscored Providence in the paint 60-24, and out-rebounded the Friars 41-28.
With 1:23 to play, Warrick, the last of the three seniors remaining on the floor, left to a standing ovation from an appreciative crowd. It was now Boeheim's time to receive the attention as orange ‘700' signs peppered the stands from section 300 to the student section and chants, once restrained, had reached roars.
The man whose name has become synonymous with Syracuse basketball gave an appreciative glance and wave to the crowd. Then he went back to work.
"We will never think of this again until we're done," Boeheim said. "That's the only way to do this job the right way. We won the national championship, but my focus didn't change. We need to focus on what's important. I'm already looking for number 701."
Boeheim's 700th win comes on senior day
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