Basketball Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim’s 47-year tenure as coach at Syracuse came to an awkward end on Wednesday, with the university saying Orange assistant Adrian Autry has been promoted to the job.
The move came less than three hours after Syracuse lost to Wake Forest in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, after which Boeheim hinted at retirement but said it would ultimately be the university’s decision.
Then came the news from the school: “Today, as his 47th season coaching his alma mater comes to an end, so too does his storied career at Syracuse University. Associate Head Coach Adrian Autry ’94, one of Boeheim’s former players and longtime assistant, has been named the program’s next head coach.”
Autry has been on Boeheim’s staff since 2011 and held the title of associate head coach since March 2017.
The 78-year-old Boeheim’s record in his 47 seasons, officially, was 1,015-441. That reflects 101 wins taken away by the NCAA for violations between the 2004-07 and 2010-12 seasons.
Whether the count was 1,015 or 1,116, only now-retired Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had more wins than Boeheim at the Division I level.
“As I’ve said from day one when I started working here, the university hired me, and it’s their choice what they want to do,” Boeheim said Wednesday afternoon. “I always have the choice of retirement, but it’s their decision as to whether I coach or not. It always has been. Again, I’ve been very lucky to be able to coach my college team, to play and then be an assistant coach and then a head coach, never having to leave Syracuse. It’s a great university.”
It was a confusing final news conference, with Boeheim hinting at retirement and hinting that he’d want to return.
Clarity came not long afterward. And for the first time since 1976, someone other than Boeheim is now the head coach of the Orange.
“There is no doubt in my mind that without Jim Boeheim, Syracuse Basketball would not be the powerhouse program it is today,” Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a statement distributed by the school. “Jim has invested and dedicated the majority of his life to building this program, cultivating generations of student-athletes and representing his alma mater with pride and distinction. I extend my deep appreciation and gratitude to an alumnus who epitomizes what it means to be ‘Forever Orange.’”
Boeheim has been synonymous with Syracuse for more than six decades. He was born in the central New York town of Lyons, not far from Syracuse. He enrolled at the school in 1962 as a walk-on, eventually becoming a captain of the then-Orangemen along with Dave Bing.
In 1969, he was hired at Syracuse as a graduate assistant. And in 1976, he took the program over. He has been the face of it since; even the court at the dome where Syracuse plays its home games has bore his name since 2002.
“There will never be another Jim Boeheim,” Buddy Boeheim, one of Boeheim’s sons who played for him at Syracuse, tweeted Wednesday. “The greatest coach, father, and mentor I could ever ask for. A man that gave a city, program, and university everything he had his whole life with countless accomplishments. Excited for a lot of golf in our future, love you pops.”
The Orange were 17-15 this season and will miss the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season. That led to criticism, which led to questions about Boeheim’s future, and what the school would ultimately decide.
“It’s an honor to play for Coach Boeheim,” Syracuse’s Benny Williams said after the loss to Wake Forest. “Ever since I can remember I’ve been watching Syracuse basketball from Jeremi Grant to Dion Waiters and those guys. The biggest lesson I will take away from Coach Boeheim is just going about my business every day and being a man.”
And there, without question, had been a dropoff in the success.
Syracuse hasn’t won 20 games in any of the last four seasons. It was a far cry from the glory days that saw the program win the NCAA title in 2003 and reach the Final Four on four other occasions. Syracuse reached the NCAA Tournament 34 times under Boeheim, won 10 Big East regular-season titles and five more titles in that conference’s tournament.
“I’ve been just so lucky to be able to coach at Syracuse, a place I love, I place I love to live,” Boeheim said. “People keep wondering about that, but maybe that’s a flaw I have. But I’ve lived in Syracuse my whole life, and I’ll live there hopefully a long time into the future. I think it’s a great place.”
It’s Autry’s turn now. He had been expected to be the next coach for some time; the question was always when.
He played in 121 games in his four seasons for Boeheim, then spent more than a decade on the bench with his former coach.
“There have been very few stronger influential forces in my life than Syracuse University and Jim Boeheim. They have both played such important roles and without either of them, I am certain I would not have this incredible opportunity before me,” Autry said. “I have spent much of my time in the game of basketball learning from Jim and am so grateful to him for preparing me to carry on the winning tradition that is Orange Basketball.
“It’s hard to imagine a world without him on the bench, but together with our coaches, student-athletes and fans, we will build on decades of success as a winning program.”