CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — At age 78 and amid his 47th season as the head coach at Syracuse, Jim Boeheim acknowledges that he has heard chatter about his retirement for well over a decade.
After the Orange’s 77-68 win over Boston College here Saturday evening, Boeheim told ESPN he would “probably” return for the 2023-24 season and that the decision to do so is up to him. Boeheim expressed optimism about Syracuse’s young core and some misgivings about the future of college basketball, bemoaning that it’s in an “awful place.”
When asked if he thought he’d be coaching this young core again next season, Boeheim told ESPN: “I have no other plans. Listen, this has been the question of the day for 15 years. This isn’t a new question. It’s just the calendar going, ‘Well, he’s 78.’ It’s just the calendar. If it wasn’t the calendar, if I was 65, no one would be saying anything. And I’m not going to retire just because it’s the calendar. Anything can happen. Anything, literally. We’ll just see what happens. I don’t say anything because I don’t know.”
Syracuse has improved to 14-10 and 7-6 in the ACC but is expected to miss the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season. In a career with 35 NCAA tournament appearances, five Final Fours and a national title, there have been only two other times since he took over in 1976 that Boeheim’s teams missed the NCAA tournament in consecutive seasons.
Boeheim said he has been fully supported by the Syracuse athletic department, campus leadership and fan base.
“Ninety-five percent of Syracuse people want me to coach,” he said. “Why wouldn’t they? As bad as we’ve been the last two years, we were fun to watch last year and we’re still fun to watch and we’re still competing. We just played three of the top teams in the country to a standstill. If you’re getting beat by 20 by those teams, then you say, ‘OK, we’ll see.'”
Boeheim said he feels like he has autonomy over the decision on his future, pointing out he coached past a prior plan for him to retire after the 2017-18 season.
“I know it’s my choice,” he said. “I can do whatever I want. I just don’t know for sure.”
He continued that thought by going through the potential roster moves on his team and his hopes that his talented core of players returns, something that would have been more certain in past years before the transfer portal and one-time transfer made movement easier.
That young core includes freshman guard Judah Mintz (15.4 points per game), freshman forward Chris Bell (6.8 PPG), freshman forward Maliq Brown (6.2 PPG) and freshman sharpshooter Justin Taylor (5.0 PPG). He also mentioned that late-blooming senior center Jesse Edwards, who starred against Boston College with 27 points, and senior guard Joe Girard III have additional years.
Boeheim said the continuity of the roster is appealing, but the idea of a total rebuild through the NCAA transfer portal isn’t. He referenced multiple ACC schools that either brought in or retained high-profile players with large name, image and likeness deals. Those deals have become legal in college sports in recent years as NCAA rules have evolved.
“This is an awful place we’re in in college basketball,” he said. “Pittsburgh bought a team. OK, fine. My [big donor] talks about it, but he doesn’t give anyone any money. Nothing. Not one guy. Our guys make like $20,000. Wake Forest bought a team. Miami bought a team. … It’s like, ‘Really, this is where we are?’ That’s really where we are, and it’s only going to get worse.”
He added: “It’s crazy. That’s why those guys got out — that’s why Jay [Wright] got out, Mike [Krzyzewski] got out. That’s the reason they got out. The transfer portal and everything is nuts. It really is.”
Upon learning of Boeheim’s remarks, Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes told ESPN the notion of the Demon Deacons buying a team was “one thousand percent wrong” and said he has “never” had a player choose Wake for NIL money.
“I don’t have one player on my team that got NIL money to come here,” Forbes said.
Boeheim said Syracuse has taken a smattering of players from the transfer portal to accentuate its roster — he mentioned Cole Swider; his son Jimmy Boeheim; and current reserve guard Symir Torrence. He said there was “no money involved” in those transfers, but also stressed that it’s legal what the other schools are doing.
“We didn’t take [many] transfer portal guys,” he said. “If we did do it and did whatever we had to do, I wouldn’t feel that good about that. These other [coaches], it doesn’t bother them.”
This will be Syracuse’s biggest NCAA tournament drought in more than a decade. The most recent back-to-back misses were the 2007 and 2008 tournaments. The other back-to-back NCAA tournament misses in Boeheim’s head-coaching career came in 1981 and 1982. That was long enough ago that Syracuse actually won the Big East tournament in 1981, but the league didn’t yet have an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Boeheim said the only vocal critic he hears consistently is a local talk show host. Boeheim dismisses the notion that there’s a significant drumbeat for him to retire.
“‘All these people are saying he should retire,'” he said, parroting a line from the talk show host. “Who’s that? Everyone I see comes up to me and says, ‘Coach, don’t retire.’ Where do you get that from?”