In a college basketball season marked by conservative coaching and drastically low scoring, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim is remarkably out of place.
When Syracuse visits Georgetown tonight at 8 o'clock for a Big East rematch, Capital Centre fans are unlikely to see Boeheim's team stall the night away, looking for a break and a one-point victory, the way so many teams do on the road nowadays.
"Everybody is so conservative now that they're scared to make a mistake," Boeheim said yesterday. "That's the new coaching philsophy. I can't give you a bottom line on why that is. But I turn on the television and watch teams being patient, throwing the ball around the perimeter and passing up a shot they'll probably take in another 30 seconds.
"The biggest thing we still try to do is be a running team. All the time."
That philsophy has helped Boeheim build the best winning percentage of any Division I coach in the nation since 1976, the year he replaced Roy Danforth at Syracuse.
Boeheim entered this season with the second-best percentage, .803 (122-30), among active coaches, behind Jerry Tarkanian's .818 at Nevada-Las Vegas. He won 26 games his first season and compiled a 100-18 aggregate his first four years. The NCAA record-keepers could find no other coach in history who won 100 games in his first four years.
Boeheim has had several superb basketball players: Roosevelt Bouie, Louis Orr, Eddie Moss, Marty Byrnes, Rudy Hackett, Dale Shackleford and currently Erich Santifer and Leo Rautins.
They all could run.
"That's how we recruit," Boeheim said. "I learned the Syracuse philosophy 11 years ago under Roy. We run, and play hard together. It's not just some cliche. Everybody gets in the act. When we went to the final four (1975-76), we had less talent than we had in other years. That's why, when a guy gets hurt or is in a slump, there are other guys who can step in."
The best illustration of that came last season, when Boeheim's worst team (22-12) lost its team leader and best outside shooter, Marty Headd, with a broken hand just before the Big East tournament.
Boeheim shifted forward Santifer to guard and started Tony Bruin up front. Syracuse won that tournament and went all the way to the NIT championship game before losing to Tulsa.
Syracuse has won its last two Big East games without the 6-foot-8 Rautins, lost with a knee injury. Rautins, Syracuse's No. 2 scorer and best outside shooter, is expected back late this week but probably not tonight.
Syracuse is 13-7 this season, including a 75-70 conquest of the Hoyas, in what was supposed to be an offyear. Still, Boeheim is not satisfied.
"I was spoiled by too much success right away, with those 26 victories the first season," Boeheim said. "It has taken me a while to learn how to lose. Last year was very tough on me and this has been a very disappointing year. I've been very unhappy."
You couldn't know that just by looking at Boeheim or listening for a sign in his voice. In a league full of flamboyant, outspoken coaches --Georgetown's John Thompson, Villanova's Rollie Massimino, St. John's Lou Carnesecca--Boeheim says he would rather go almost unnoticed at courtside during a game.
"I like it that way," Boeheim said. "I want my players to get most of the publicity and attention."
As a student at Syracuse in 1963, Boeheim made the Orange squad as a walk-on, despite the presence of seven scholarship freshmen. In 1966, he was cocaptain with Dave Bing when Syracuse went to the Eastern regional final.
Boeheim came back as an assistant in 1969 and helped Syracuse build one of the premier basketball programs in the East; one that recruited nationally, played in a postseason tournament every year, always emphasized a running game.
Boeheim almost changed that philosophy at the beginning of this season when he looked at his team and saw no dominating forwards (Rautins plays like a point guard) and no experienced center.
"It had crossed my mind to slow things down," Boeheim said. "I hear that Lefty Driesell (Maryland's coach) has decided to do that at least for a while. We have people who can pass and handle the ball well enough. But I finally decided that those same people are talented enough to run. That's my personal philosophy, so regardless of what the trend is, running is what we'll do."
American University was awaiting a plastic surgeon's examination of Juan Jones today for an indication of how long the starting center will be out of action. Jones incurred a fractured right cheekbone in Saturday night's 87-68 victory over Hofstra.
The 6-foot-6 junior has been instrumental in AU's current eight-game winning streak. Over the last seven games, Jones had averaged 12 points and eight rebounds and played solid defense against taller, more offensively inclined centers. With backup center David Ridley, 6-6, out for the year after spraining his right knee last week, 6-8 sophomore Andre Adams, a sometime Eagle starter at forward, would take over at center for Jones.
Virginia (22-1) could be ranked No. 1 when both wire-service polls are released tonight. Center Ralph Sampson scored 25 points, took 21 rebounds and blocked seven shots in Saturday's 80-66 victory over Virginia Tech.
Missouri, No. 1 last week as the last major unbeaten, lost, 67-51, to Big Eight visitor Nebraska. The Tigers (19-1) visit Georgetown in a nationally televised game on Feb. 20. They had won 29 straight at home until Saturday.
No. 12 Texas (15-4) lost to 14th-ranked Arkansas, 62-55, in overtime. The Longhorns had been as high as No. 5 in the polls, but have lost four of their last five games.