Gery: With trip to Final Four, Boeheim overcomes adversity to climb back to top of profession

first_img Published on March 31, 2013 at 2:18 am Facebook Twitter Google+ WASHINGTON — Jim Boeheim smiled as his seniors considered whether the Syracuse head coach had relaxed at all in the last four years.Brandon Triche quipped that Boeheim’s yelled at him every other play since his arrival on campus. Then James Southerland chimed in, explaining how he was on the receiving end of a verbal lashing during the Orange’s 47-point win over Montana in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.Boeheim’s smile turned into laughter seconds earlier as Southerland summed up his coach’s mindset in the moment.“I don’t think Coach is going to be relaxed until we win a championship, that’s what I say,” Southerland said before flashing a grin. “What do you think, Coach?”Boeheim didn’t answer, but at least on this night, the legendary head coach deserved to relax and enjoy the moment. His team’s 55-39 victory over Marquette at the Verizon Center clinched the fourth Final Four appearance in his 37 years at the helm. In just the last four years he’s shared with Triche and Southerland, Boeheim has been through more adversity and heartbreak than at any point in his career.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textOff the court, the program had to overcome multiple firestorms – from the sexual abuse allegations against former associate head coach Bernie Fine, to looming NCAA investigations and academic eligibility issues in each of the last two seasons, to relentless inquiries about his plans for retirement.On the court, Syracuse saw a pair of dream seasons as No. 1 seeds end prematurely in the postseason – both leaving the Orange thinking about the possibilities after Arinze Onuaku missed the 2010 tournament due to injury and Fab Melo sat out last year’s due to academic ineligibility.Boeheim overcame it all, culminating with the satisfying victory to return to the game’s biggest stage.“He actually helps us deal with adversity because you see the way he handles it,” Southerland said. “I feel like it rubs off on everybody.”Boeheim brushed aside all of the troubles, most recently the day before the team’s second-round game against Montana when reports surfaced about the NCAA’s investigation into the basketball program.As he has for the past two seasons, Boeheim kept his and his players’ focus on the court. And in this run through the NCAA Tournament, Boeheim’s reminded everyone why he’s a Hall of Famer.He announced to critics back in December that Syracuse’s perceived weak nonconference schedule, in which it beats up on cupcakes, had no bearing on its performance in March. His team proved that this weekend.He’s been knocked for his 2-3 zone, with some saying that despite his 920 wins — second all-time — he’s not an all-time great coach. His zone has been the star of this run, holding its four opponents to 28.9-percent shooting from the field and 15.4 percent from beyond the arc.So Syracuse will return to the Final Four, this time in Atlanta, riding the same formula Boeheim has used for his 37-year run at his alma mater.“I’m coaching the way I’ve always coached,” Boeheim said. “I don’t think it’s any different.”That was on display for 40 minutes of action on the court as his team jumped out to an early lead and then put it away in the second half. Boeheim showed little emotion for much of the contest, remaining calm and collected even as it became evident the Orange would be heading to the Final Four.Finally, surrounded by his coaching staff and team, Boeheim allowed himself a smile, beaming atop the stage on the floor as he received the East Region championship trophy.He then climbed the ladder to finish cutting the net down, with SU fans singing chants of “Boeheim” during his ascent. The short moment of euphoria captured what keeps Boeheim coming back year after year.“When you break through and when you get there, it makes it so much better,” Boeheim said. “That’s what this profession is.”Boeheim still enjoys it, despite the extreme highs and lows that come with it. He’d eventually answer Southerland’s question, saying he won’t be happy, he won’t relax, unless his team wins it all.But on Saturday, for a moment at least, the legendary coach had every reason to smile, laugh and soak it all in.Syracuse was back in the Final Four. Boeheim was back at the top of his profession.Ryne Gery is a staff writer at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected] Commentslast_img

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