||Coach Jim Boeheim, a walk-on player in 1962, has one of the highest winning percentages in NCAA Division 1 basketball.
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Our windows on the world are too often framed within life’s experiences. The teenager views the lifeline of Syracuse University basketball through the windblown portals of the Carrier Dome: Etan Thomas’s shot-blocking, Jason’s H(e)art, Damone Brown’s dunks, Ryan Blackwell’s inside/outside game, and a supporting cast that seasoned orchestrator Jim Boeheim directed to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament and a 26-6 finish.
Even adult Orange hoop junkies, part of 30,000-plus crowds that seem so many yesterdays removed from the new millennium, have witnessed their share of memorable moments. They watched John Wallace carry a team to an improbable last dance with Kentucky for the 1996 national championship; Billy Owens’s all-around game; Derrick Coleman clear NCAA title game boards as no freshman ever had, only to be shot down by Keith Smart; Gene Waldron’s surreal 40-point performance in the Carrier Classic; The Shot fired by Pearl Washington, whose scintillating moves played to full houses and energized recruiting; and The Greatest Game, a Big East Tournament crown won in triple overtime on Leo Rautins’s tip-in.
Do their SU basketball memory banks end there? As if Manley Field House, seen now in its ever-expanding form, must have been some ratty hole where a bunch of nameless faces on unheralded teams played games that didn’t shape a program’s future.
Couldn’t have been much game back in those days when the only three-pointer included a free throw. Yet to have never squeezed into a packed Manley Dome, not to have tasted dust rising from beneath a portable floor, heard The Zoo fracture a visiting coach’s ego and eardrums, meant missing some of SU hoops’ most treasured moments.
There was Georgetown coach John Thompson declaring “Manley Field House is officially closed!”—a streak-snapping end to the Bouie ’n’ Louie Show; Cinderella, Snow White, and the Seven Dwarfs taking a town on a first, almost mystical journey to the Final Four in ’75; Sweet D and the Brothers Lee; Roy’s Runts; the roof-bound flight of doves greeting their namesake, St. John’s Sonny; graceful Dave Bing, greatest of all Orangemen, whose combined scoring/ rebounding/passing ability remains unequaled on Piety Hill. And could that bespectacled, bony Boeheim really play?
Well, surely, there was nothing of consequence before then. An NIT bid was a big deal. RPI was an engineering school, not a ratings percentage index. And ESPN wasn’t even a blip on your TV screen.
But much had transpired on SU’s road to more than 1,500 victories. Ahere was a basketball life before Boeheim, who arrived on campus a walk-on in ’62. That period was not without glory, nor sans court embarrassment. Actually, men’s basketball began two years after the women took the court in 1898. For the first three seasons, the men’s team had no coach. Since then, every Orange coach—seven, beginning with athletic director John A.R. Scott, who first volunteered his services in ’03—had winning career records. Boeheim, of course, is the leader in games, victories, and winning percentage. But Lew Andreas, SU’s longtime athletic director, won 355 games from 1924-50 and had a .726 winning percentage. Ed Dollard (1911-24), whose 1913-14 squad was the school’s only one to go undefeated (12-0), had a .725 winning percentage.
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