“Guys say to me, ‘How do you know when it’s time to stop?’ And I say I don’t know because I haven’t gotten there yet.”
It seems unlikely that Boeheim will be dragged away kicking and screaming anytime soon. Syracuse is 28-9 this season with only two seniors among its top nine players. And as much as Boeheim hates leaving the Big East as part of the never-ending conference re-alignment dance, he is looking forward to coaching in the ACC. The freshness of a different challenge clearly appeals to him.
“The thing that Jim has always done well is compartmentalize,” said Williams, who was put in the awkward position Wednesday of interviewing his old friend and rival for TV. “If he isn’t that happy about practice, he knows that it’s still playing the games that matters. If he isn’t happy about a game, well, he goes back to practice or to the tape to figure out how to make it better.”
Boeheim’s life changed considerably when he remarried in the fall of 1997 and started the second family that now drags him to Disney World each spring. He will tell you that it changed even more when he won the national championship in 2003, finally dulling the painful memory of Keith Smart’s shot 16 years earlier in the same building, which allowed Indiana to beat Syracuse for the title in 1987.
“I don’t think you ever completely get over a game like that — I still think about it — but now I think about winning in ’03 a lot more often.
“Any coach who has a chance to win a national championship and doesn’t win it who tells you it doesn’t matter is lying to you. Of course it matters. I’ve always said that people make too much of March but it’s a fact of life in coaching that these are the games you’re judged on.
“It’s true even more now. Ben Howland and Tubby Smith got fired because they weren’t winning in the NCAA tournament. . . . And there’s more pressure now than ever because every school thinks their coach should do what Jimmy [Larranaga] did at George Mason or what Brad Stevens did at Butler. And they’re all convinced if they fire their coach they’re going to hire Shaka Smart.”
Boeheim is well past worrying about getting fired. He’s in the basketball Hall of Fame and is universally liked and respected by his peers in the game. It may be tough to tell, but he’s looking forward to playing Indiana on Thursday and he’d love to take another crack at a Final Four trip on Saturday.
But he’s not here to have fun. He’s just trying to delay that Disney World trip for as long as he possibly can.
For more by John Feinstein, go to www.washingtonpost.com/feinstein.