Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — Jim Boeheim continues to move up the list of winningest coaches in the history of Division I basketball, but he has no plans to retire anytime soon.
“As far as when I get to it, go to practice and go to recruit, I’m just as passionate as I’ve ever been, or more so because I know I’m not going to coach forever,” Boeheim said Saturday in a Madison Square Garden hallway after he tied former North Carolina coach Dean Smith at No. 3 on the all-time wins list at 879 because of Syracuse’s 95-70 rout of St. John’s.
Asked if he could see the end, Boeheim, who has spent all 36 years of his coaching career at Syracuse, said, “It’s closer. I can definitely see it, no question about that.”
In the meantime, he continues to charge up the all-time wins list with perhaps his deepest team ever.
Only Mike Krzyzewski (917) and Bob Knight (902) currently have more victories than Boeheim, and Knight won’t be adding to his total anytime soon.
“I’m very proud,” Boeheim said. “Dean Smith was an unbelievable coach. He was clearly in my mind one of the four great coaches I think that we’ve had in college basketball, and it’s a tremendous honor to be able to get there.”
Boeheim, 67, can take over sole possession of third place when the No. 2 Orange (23-1, 10-1 Big East) host Georgetown Wednesday.
He says he’s focused on this year and trying to win one game at a time with a deep, potent Syracuse team that has all the tools to win an NCAA championship.
Boeheim’s biggest problem at this moment may be finding enough minutes for his deep rotation of guards that includes Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche and Dion Waiters.
Freshman guard Michael Carter-Williams went for a career-high 13 points, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc, but has to bide his time behind the other guards.
“He’s a very good player,” Boeheim said of Carter-Williams. “I told him today, ‘You’re playing behind one of the best backcourts in the country.’ I don’t think anyone has three guards like we have.
“Michael’s a very good player. He just needs to get some time and I just haven’t quite figured out how to play four guards.”
At one juncture in the second half, Carter-Williams and Waiters went for back-to-back dunks worthy of SportsCenter highlights.
Boeheim also now has 7-foot sophomore Fab Melo back after he missed three games reportedly for academics reasons.
All Melo did was go for a career-high 14 points with three rebounds and two blocks.
With him back to anchor the Syracuse 2-3 zone, the Orange will be tough to score on come March.
Boeheim’s second five — Waiters, Carter-Williams, James Southerland, C.J. Fair and Baye Keita — would start for a lot of teams in America.
Five Syracuse players scored 13 or more points against St. John’s.
In short, Boeheim has a loaded team capable of challenging for his second NCAA title, but he thinks they can get even better between now and March, which should scare just about every other team in America.
“Because we’ve got so many guys, I think we’re still learning,” he said. “I think we’re still getting better.”
At one point this year, in the midst of the Bernie Fine sex scandal, it appeared that Boeheim’s job might be in jeopardy.
Now, a couple of months later, he’s being touted for National Coach of the Year honors.
“I don’t even think about that,” Boeheim said. “I think we got a long way to go. There are so many guys who have done unbelievable coaching jobs this year and every year, it’s really not something I think about it.”
Boeheim believes college basketball has so much parity now, that picking the NCAA Tournament will be “impossible.”
“You get in and you think you’re a good team and you’re going to get to the second round and play somebody like Long Beach State or Wagner or Creighton or Kent State,” he said.
“You’re looking at all these teams that you’re going to run into in the second game. It’s just a very, very difficult tournament.”
He added: “It’s so close and you have just a little bit of an off game and somebody can get you.”
Hearing him talk with such passion about the intricacies of the state of college basketball, he doesn’t sound like a man ready to quit anytime soon.
Yet he does imagine what retirement might look like down the road, perhaps after Syracuse bolts the Big East for the ACC, likely after next season.
“I love to fish, I love to hunt, I love to play golf, I love to travel, I love to go to great restaurants and eat,” he said. “I’ve got three kids that I’m going to watch play. They’re still young, 12 years old, sixth grade, watch them play through high school…so I got a lot to do.
“I’m not looking to retire but it’s like everybody’s gone. My kids are all gone and I gotta go home. My wife wouldn’t like that. She wouldn’t like that at all.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.