Tyrone Albright ’04, left, and Carmelo Anthony ’06 celebrate in New Orleans. Photo by Stephen D. Cannerelli, The Post-Standard


George Bernard Shaw once lamented that youth was wasted on the young. The late Irish dramatist and social commentator might have recanted his famous quote had he observed the 2002-03 Syracuse University basketball team in action. For nearly five months, these young Orangemen failed to act their age—and it was a joyous thing to behold. They showed us that sometimes talent trumps experience, especially when that talent is combined with togetherness.

Led by precocious freshmen Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara, the ’Cuse was elevated to heights never visited before—a 30-5 record, an undefeated season in the Carrier Dome (17-0), and the school’s first NCAA basketball championship. In the process, they galvanized a region slammed hard by a sluggish economy and a relentless winter that was severe even by upstate New York’s standards.

These “kids” also rewarded Coach Jim Boeheim ’66, G’73, who has been true to his school for nearly four decades, with the only thing missing from his Hall-of-Fame-caliber coaching resume. Never again will Boeheim have to answer why he can’t win the big one.

Stephen D. Cannerelli, The Post-Standard

SU basketball coach Jim Boeheim ’66, G’73, left, cuts the net in New Orleans after the Orangemen won the NCAA championship.

SU Stats & Facts


1.5 – SECONDS left on the clock when Hakim Warrick blocked a 3-point attempt by Michael Lee of Kansas in the NCAA championship game

2 – NCAA championship games SU has played in the Louisiana Superdome

3 – TIMES Coach Jim Boeheim has led SU to the Final Four

3 – INDIVIDUAL Big East awards claimed by SU players this season: Carmelo Anthony, Rookie of the Year; Hakim Warrick, Most Improved Player; and Kueth Duany, Sportsmanship Award

4 – SU players selected as Big East Rookie of the Year: Carmelo Anthony (2002-03), Lawrence Moten (1991-92), Derrick Coleman (1986-87), and Dwayne “Pearl” Washington (1983-84)

4 – BIG 12 conference teams that SU defeated in the 2003 NCAA tournament (Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State)

5 – NCAA tournament games in which four SU players scored in double figures

6 – THREE-POINT shots made by Gerry McNamara in the first half of the Kansas game, a Syracuse NCAA tournament record

7 – FORMER Boeheim assistants who are head coaches: Rick Pitino, Louisville; Tim O’Toole, Fairfield; Louis Orr, Seton Hall; Ralph Willard, Holy Cross; Tim Welsh, Providence; Scott Hicks, Loyola (Maryland); and Wayne Morgan, Iowa State

7 – UNDERCLASSMEN among SU’s 9 scholarship players

 


NCAA Championship Game
Syracuse 81, Kansas 78
at Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
April 7, 2003


Syracuse (30-5)  
MIN
FG-FGA
3-PT
FT-FTA
REB
PF
A
TO
BLK
S
PTS

Hakim Warrick

f
31
2-4
0-0
2-4
2
3
1
3
2
0
6
Carmelo Anthony
f
37
7-16
7-16
3-4
10
2
7
3
0
1
20
Craig Forth
c
24
3-4
0-0
0-1
3
5
0
0
3
1
6
Gerry McNamara
g
34
6-13
6-10
0-0
0
2
1
3
0
1
18
Kueth Duany
g
13
4-6
2-3
1-2
4
3
0
2
0
1
11
Josh Pace  
21
4-9
0-0
0-0
8
2
2
2
0
3
8
Billy Edelin  
27
4-10
0-0
4-6
2
1
2
2
0
3
12
Jeremy McNeil  
13
0-1
0-0
0-0
5
4
0
2
2
0
0
Team          
2
           
Totals  
200
30-63
11-18
10-17
36
22
13
17
7
10
81

TOTAL PERCENTAGES: FG: 47.6%; 3-PT FG: 61.1%; FT: 58.8%


Kansas (30-8)  
MIN
FG-FGA
3-PT
FT-FTA
REB
PF
A
TO
BLK
S
PTS

Nick Collison

f
40
8-14
0-0
3-10
21
5
3
5
3
3
19
Keith Langford
f
23
7-9
0-1
5-10
2
5
0
3
0
1
19
Jeff Graves
c
37
7-13
0-0
2-7
16
2
3
2
0
1
16
Kirk Hinrich
g
38
6-13
3-12
1-1
2
1
4
3
1
1
16
Aaron Miles
g
34
4-6
0-2
0-0
6
1
7
4
0
1
2
Michael Lee  
23
4-9
1-5
0-0
1
1
1
1
0
2
5
Bryant Nash  
5
4-10
0-0
1-2
1
1
0
0
0
0
1
Team          
3
           
Totals  
200
31-71
4-20
12-30
52
16
18
18
4
9
78

TOTAL PERCENTAGES: FG: 43.7%; 3-PT FG: 20%; FT: 40


Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total  
Syracuse 53 28 81  
Kansas 42 36 78  


Technical Fouls: None. Attendance: 54,524.

By defeating Kansas 81-78 in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on April 7, this wise-beyond-its-basketball-years team accomplished one other thing: It exorcised the ghost of Keith Smart, the former Indiana University star whose painful baseline shot with 4 seconds remaining in this very same building 16 years ago prevented Syracuse from laying claim to the title.

The signature play in SU’s rich basketball history no longer will be that nightmarish Smart shot, re-run ad nauseam each time the tournament rolls around. Instead, it will be that amazing, championship-preserving block by Hakim Warrick. The 6-foot-9 sophomore forward from Philadelphia came from out of nowhere to swat away a 3-point attempt by Michael Lee of Kansas with 1.5 seconds remaining in the season finale. Warrick’s hustling, heads-up play epitomized a season in which the Orangemen became the feel-good story of college basketball and the pride of SU alumni worldwide. “The excitement this team has brought, the attitude of never giving up, and continuing to play hard is a life lesson for every kid who lives in this area, and for the adults, too,” says Boeheim, whose Orangemen erased second-half deficits 15 times en route to victories. “This team showed that you can be behind, you can be struggling, you can do some silly things sometimes. But you can still overcome all that. If you keep playing and keep working together all the time, anything’s possible.”

The so-called college basketball experts had low expectations for Syracuse heading into the season. Few questioned that this team would be more talented than the 2001-02 Orangemen, who lost 8 of their final 12 regular-season games and wound up in the National Invitational Tournament. Anthony, whose incandescent smile reminds many of basketball legend Magic Johnson, was everybody’s pre-season choice to become the top rookie in college basketball. McNamara had been recruited by the likes of three-time national champion Duke. And Billy Edelin had been the point guard for the nation’s top-ranked high school team while playing for Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.

SU Stats & Facts


7 – SHOTS blocked by SU in the NCAA title game (tying six other teams for the most in a championship game)

7 – SYRACUSE players named to All-Final Four teams: Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara, 2003; John Wallace and Todd Burgan, 1996; Sherman Douglas and
Derrick Coleman, 1987;
and Jimmy Lee, 1975

10 – TIMES Carmelo Anthony was named Big East Rookie of the Week, a conference record

11 – POINTS per game Billy Edelin averaged during the NCAA tournament

11 – THREE-POINT field goals scored by SU in the championship game (ties for second most in a championship game)

13 – REGULAR-SEASON wins by SU in the Big East Conference

14 – POINTS scored by Josh Pace coming off the bench in the NCAA tournament victory against Auburn

14.6 – POINTS per game averaged by Jim Boeheim during his senior year (1965-66) at Syracuse

15 – TIMES this season that Syracuse overcame second-half deficits to win

15 – STEALS by Gerry McNamara in the NCAA tournament, an SU NCAA tournament record

17 – WINS by SU in its first undefeated season at the Carrier Dome

Courtesy of SU Athletics


But none of the pundits believed a team that started two freshmen and two sophomores could make the quantum leap from missing the NCAAs one year to winning it all the next. “I guess we wound up defying the conventional wisdom that says you can’t win without experience,” says captain Kueth Duany, the only senior scholarship player on the team and the 2002-03 recipient of the Big East’s Sportsmanship Award. Duany, known to his teammates as “Gramps,” saw something special in this group the first day of practice at Manley Field House in mid-October. “I think Melo [Anthony] and G-Mac [McNamara] and Billy [Edelin] were in so many pressure games in high school and in AAU leagues that this pressure didn’t faze them,” Duany says. “They arrived here with a big-game mentality. I have to keep reminding myself that these guys are only freshmen and sophomores. There are times when they play like seniors, and sometimes they play like grad students.”

It’s interesting to note that they ended their first practice of the season by huddling up and chanting in unison: “Final Four.” Talk about a good omen.

Though they lost their season opener to Memphis at Madison Square Garden on November 14, notice was served as Anthony scored 27 points, a school record for freshmen, and McNamara added 14. The Orangemen then reeled off 11 consecutive victories, including a 76-69 win over Missouri, then ranked 11th in the nation.

Courtesy of SU Athletics

Captain Kueth Duany ’02 looks for an opening against Kansas. At left, he takes a moment to relax and enjoy the NCAA championship trophy.

The ’Cuse continued to open eyes by storming back from double-digit deficits to defeat second-ranked Pittsburgh and ninth-ranked Notre Dame in the Carrier Dome in February. But it wasn’t until the Orangemen came away with victories at three of the toughest venues in college basketball—Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Georgetown—that outsiders began to take them seriously. “I think those wins on the road convinced people that this team might just be capable of doing something extraordinary,” Boeheim says. “Maybe these kids really were too young to realize that you aren’t supposed to win three games in places like that or to come back from so many big deficits. There probably were five or six games this season we had no right winning because we had dug ourselves too big a hole. But somehow, some way, they found a way to come back.’’ No wonder many began referring to them as Cardiac ’Cuse.

No player was more ahead of his time than Anthony, the 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 22.2 points and 10 rebounds per game while earning National Freshman of the Year honors and the Most Outstanding Player Award at the Final Four. On several occasions, Boeheim said Anthony was “unguardable.” This clearly was the case in the final, when Anthony had 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists, despite playing more than half the game with a back so severely strained he couldn’t bend over to tie his shoes. “You spend a lifetime dreaming of playing on a stage like this,” Anthony says. “There was no way I was coming out of that game until that final buzzer sounded.”


2002-03 Syracuse University Box Score (35 games)

Player
FG-FGA
PCT
3PT
PCT
FT-FTA
PCT
REB
AVG
A
TO
BLK
S
PTS
AVG

Carmelo Anthony

277-612
.453
56-166
.337
168-238
.706
349
10.0
77
77
30
55
778
22.2
Hakim Warrick
197-364
.541
0-1
.000
124-186
.667
297
8.5
57
92
44
49
518
14.8
Gerry McNamara
146-364
.401
85-238
.357
90-99
.909
80
2.3
155
85
2
77
467
13.3
Kueth Duany
133-303
.439
43-123
.350
77-114
.675
128
3.7
71
57
17
36
386
11.0
Billy Edelin
80-146
.548
0-2
.000
48-71
676
78
3.4
58
53
2
24
208
9.0
Josh Pace
62-118
.525
0-2
.000
14-25
.560
86
2.7
60
37
8
26
138
4.3
Craig Forth
56-115
.487
0-1
.000
20-40
.500
116
303
30
39
41
15
132
3.8
Jeremy McNeil
54-81
.667
0-0
.000
9-20
.450
146
4.2
8
36
100
9
117
3.3
Matt Gorman
8-23
.348
0-1
.000
5-8
.625
19
2.1
1
5
2
3
21
2.3
Andrew Kouwe
3-5
.600
2-2
1.000
2-2
1.000
2
.03
2
1
0
0
10
1.7
Ronneil Herron
2-3
.667
0-0
.000
2-3
.667
5
1.0
0
1
0
0
6
1.2
Gary Hall
1-1
1.000
0-0
.000
0-0
.000
2
0.4
2
0
1
1
2
0.4
Xzavier Gaines
1-8
.125
0-3
.000
0-0
.000
2
0.3
1
2
0
1
2
0.3
Josh Brooks
0-1
.000
0-0
.000
0-0
.000
1
0.2
0
0
0
0
0
0.0
Tyrone Albright
0-2
.000
0-1
.000
0-0
.000
2
0.3
1
3
0
2
0
0.0
Team            
112
3.2
 
6
       

Total
1020-2146
.475
186-540
.344
559-806
.694
1425
40.7
523
494
247
298
2785
79.6
Opponents
878-2253
.390
239-786
.304
440-675
.652
1333
38.1
556
520
112
242
2435
69.6

Al Campanie, The Post-Standard

Stephen D. Cannerelli, The Post-Standard

Carmelo Anthony ’06, below, drives the baseline against Brandon Mouton of Texas. After the victory against Texas, left, Anthony walks off the court flashing a number one. Above, Anthony and teammates greet fans during a downtown Syracuse parade celebrating the NCAA championship.

 

For Anthony, the next stage he’ll appear on will be the biggest yet. After deciding to enter the NBA draft, he was selected by the Denver Nuggets as the third pick overall. “He has done more for Syracuse basketball than any player we’ve ever recruited and has ever played here,” Boeheim says. “In my mind, this is the right decision. As much as we would like to have him here, he is ready to play at the next level.”

Stephen D. Cannerelli, The Post-Standard

Count Duany, the team’s elder statesman, among those in awe. “Melo didn’t just have the best season of any freshman this year,” Duany says. “He may have had the best season of any freshman in the history of college basketball.”

Although Anthony was clearly Big Man on Campus, he didn’t act like he was something special. There were stretches when he literally carried the team on his broad shoulders, and there were stretches when he was perfectly content to play the role of decoy or distributor. “He puts up big numbers,” McNamara says. “But with Carmelo, it’s the wins that count.”

The same could be said for McNamara, the other freshman phenom in the Syracuse lineup. A tenacious 6-foot-2 guard from Scranton, Pennsylvania, McNamara averaged 13.3 points, 4.4 assists, and 2 steals per game, while setting a Big East record for free-throw accuracy (96 percent). His six three-pointers in the first half of the title game established the tone, as the Orangemen set a record for most points in the opening half (53) of a championship game. “The kid’s got ice in his veins,” Duany says. “I don’t know of anyone in America I’d rather have shooting that three with the game on the line.”

SU’s other main scoring option was Warrick, whose 14.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game were double what he averaged his freshman season, earning him the Big East’s Most Improved Player Award. His long arms and quick feet enabled him to dunk basketballs with the ease that others dunk doughnuts. For as long as basketball is played on the Hill, Warrick will be remembered for that blocked shot.

Courtesy of SU Athletics

Stephen D. Cannerelli, The Post-Standard
Jeremy McNeil ’04 slams down a dunk against Oklahoma State, SU’s second-round opponent in the NCAA tournament.

SU Stats & Facts


17 – GAMES that Carmelo Anthony led or tied for team honors in both scoring and rebounding

18 –THREE-POINTERS scored by Gerry McNamara in six NCAA tournament games, a Syracuse NCAA tournament record

19 – TIMES Syracuse scored at least 80 points in a game this season

22 – NUMBER of double-doubles recorded by Carmelo Anthony this season

22 – GAMES Syracuse won this season when Kueth Duany scored 10 or more points

25 – TIMES Jim Boeheim has coached his teams to at least 20 wins

27 – SEASONS
Jim Boeheim has been
head coach at SU

33 – POINTS Carmelo Anthony scored against Texas in the Final Four, a season high and SU freshman record for single-game scoring, and the most points scored by a freshman in a Final Four game

38 – NCAA tournament wins by Jim Boeheim

44 – YEARS between the SU football team’s national championship title in 1959 and the basketball team’s national title in 2003

53 – FREE throws made by Gerry McNamara in 55 attempts during Big East play to lead the league (96.4 percent); McNamara was eighth in the nation with an overall free-throw shooting percentage of 90.9 percent (90 of 99)

Stephen D. Cannerelli, The Post-Standard

Jim Boeheim ’66, G’73, below, calls for a foul in the Texas game. On the facing page, Josh Pace ’05 goes airborne against Kansas’s

Stephen D. Cannerelli, The Post-Standard

Billy Edelin ’06, releases a pass during SU’s first-round NCAA tournament win against Manhattan in Boston.

SU Stats & Facts


53 – POINTS SU scored in the first half of the NCAA championship against Kansas, the most ever scored by a team in the opening period of the title game

57.1 – PERCENTAGE
of shots SU made from the field (32-of-56) in the 95-84 NCAA semifinal victory against Texas

99 – FIELD-GOAL attempts in the NCAA tournament by Carmelo Anthony

653 – CAREER wins by Jim Boeheim as head coach of the Orangemen

847 – BASKETBALL
victories Jim Boeheim has been involved in as a player, assistant coach, and head
coach at Syracuse

1985 –THE LAST year a team (Villanova) was unranked in the AP preseason poll and went on to win the national title

2,000 – ESTIMATED number of fans from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who journeyed to the Carrier Dome on February 15 to watch their native son, Gerry McNamara, play against Notre Dame

25,000 – ESTIMATED number of fans who attended a rally at the Carrier Dome after SU won the NCAA title

33,071 – NCAA on-campus attendance record set at the Carrier Dome in the regular-season finale against Rutgers

391,092 – DOLLARS raised, according to the American Cancer Society, in the 2001-02 academic year by the Syracuse University chapter of Coaches vs. Cancer, chaired by Jim Boeheim

Leadership was provided by Duany, whom McNamara called “the nicest person I’ve ever met.” Duany’s value to the team was underscored by this stat: SU was 22-1 in games in which the 6-foot-6 guard scored at least 10 points.

Stephen D. Cannerelli, The Post-Standard

Gerry McNamara ’06 launches a three-point shot against Texas.

The center position was considered the team’s Achilles’s heel—and it was supposed to hobble SU come tournament time. But the McForth Combination (backup Jeremy McNeil ’04 and starter Craig Forth ’05) proved the prophets of doom wrong. Forth had 6 points and 3 blocks against Kansas, and without McNeil’s 7 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in that 17-point comeback against Oklahoma State in the NCAA tournament’s second round, the Orangemen would have been watching the Final Four on the television.

The contributions of Edelin and sophomore Josh Pace off the bench also were crucial. The two combined for 20 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, and 6 steals in the title game. “The bottom line is that we were a complete team,” Duany says. “Every guy contributed, even the walk-ons who pushed us in practice. That’s what a lot of people like about us. We have stars who aren’t selfish, and we have role players who can play like stars.”

From Marshall Street to Bourbon Street, these Orangemen gave folks reason to celebrate. Even Boeheim, the man Sports Illustrated labeled “coaching’s favorite curmudgeon,” let his thinning hair down. Surrounded by family and players past and present on the Superdome court following the victory, Boeheim shed a tear as he peered at the scoreboard to make sure this wasn’t a dream. Later, he and his wife, Juli G’97, led a procession of hundreds of adoring Syracuse fans, Pied Piper-style, through New Orleans’s French Quarter. Before calling it a night in the wee hours of that Tuesday morning, a fan presented Juli with an orange velour cowboy hat. Her husband would wear it at several functions honoring the team in Syracuse, showing a humorous side that he hadn’t always made public. The nation witnessed Boeheim’s self-deprecating personality when he traded barbs with David Letterman on national television and felt his pride when he and Anthony rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. (It should be noted that the luck of the Orange was felt on Wall Street that day as the Dow climbed 147 points.)

Just five days after knocking off the Jayhawks, more than 25,000 fans congregated in the Carrier Dome to say thanks amid an atmosphere that resembled a high-energy rock concert. As Boeheim emerged from a cloud of smoke holding aloft the national championship trophy, one couldn’t help but think of the coach’s musical hero, Bruce Springsteen, whom Boeheim first watched rock the Dome back in 1985. To paraphrase the Boss of Rock ’n’ Roll, Glory Days clearly had not passed Boeheim by. The face of Syracuse basketball was wearing that goofy orange cowboy hat and a smile radiant enough to light up the Dome. And a region that has taken its share of hits through the years was smiling right along with the man who has guided Syracuse to 653 victories and 22 NCAA tournament appearances in 27 years. “This team has elevated the spirit of this community and made us proud,” says Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll, who presented each team member with a key to the city following a parade through downtown. “They captivated all our hearts and won the hearts of the entire nation. We have this whole year to brag to anyone who will listen that we have the number-one team in the nation.”

Stephen D. Cannerelli, The Post-Standard

Gerry McNamara ’06 works the ball inside against Auburn’s Brandon Robinson in the Orangemen’s NCAA East Regional semifinal triumph in Albany.

School spirit has never been higher. “This is honestly the coolest thing I’ve ever lived through,” biochemistry major Tiffany Roy ’04 told the Utica Observer-Dispatch the day after the title game. “Last night and today were worth every snowy day, every cloud in the sky, every dollar we’ve paid to go here.’’

Youth clearly had been served in Orange Nation, when Warrick rejected a shot and the conventional wisdom that says you can’t win without experience. Gen Next became Gen Now in the Big Easy.

Scott Pitoniak, a nationally honored sports columnist for the Rochester (New York) Democrat and Chronicle, is a 1977 graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He spent many wintry Syracuse evenings in the zany Manley Field House student section known as “the Zoo,” and has written about the basketball program for various newspapers and magazines for nearly three decades.

Stephen D. Cannerelli, The Post-Standard
McNamara and Jeremy O’Neil ’04 go up for a block in tandem against Manhattan’s Luis Flores.

Stephen D. Cannerelli, The Post-Standard

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Four MVP Carmelo Anthony ’06 releases a shot over Kansas’s Nick Collison.


2002-03 SU Men’s
Basketball Team (30-5)

RESULTS

Memphis 70, SU 63
(Coaches vs. Cancer Classic
at Madison Square Garden)
SU 81, VALPARAISO 66
SU 98, COLGATE 68
SU 85, CORNELL 62
SU 92, UNC-GREENSBORO 65
SU 94, BINGHAMTON 58
SU 92, GEORGIA TECH 65
SU 109, ALBANY 79
SU 87, CANISIUS 69
SU 70, Seton Hall* 66
SU 82, BOSTON COLLEGE* 74
SU 76, MISSOURI 69
Pittsburgh* 73, SU 60
SU 83, SETON HALL* 65
SU 54, Miami* 49
Rutgers* 68, SU 65
SU 67, PITTSBURGH* 65
SU 88, GEORGETOWN* 80
SU 94, West Virginia* 80
Connecticut* 75, SU 61
SU 82, NOTRE DAME* 80
SU 66, ST. JOHN’S* 60
SU 76, Michigan State 75
SU 89, WEST VIRGINIA* 51
SU 93, Georgetown* 84 (OT)
SU 92, Notre Dame* 88
SU 83, RUTGERS* 74

Big East Tournament
(at Madison Square Garden)
SU 74, Georgetown 69 (Quarterfinals)*
Connecticut 80, SU 67 (Semifinals)*

NCAA Tournament
East Regional, first and
second rounds at Boston
SU 76, Manhattan 65
SU 68, Oklahoma State 56
East Regional semifinals
and final at Albany
SU 79, Auburn 78
SU 63, Oklahoma 47
National semifinals and
final at New Orleans
SU 95, Texas 84
SU 81, Kansas 78

HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS
* Denotes a Big East game

Stephen D. Cannerelli, The Post-Standard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gerry McNamara ’06 high-fives fans as he leaves the court of Pepsi Arena in Albany after SU defeated Oklahoma to advance to the Final Four.

For additional Post-Standard photographs go to www.syracuse.com
The Herald Co., Syracuse NY © 2003 The Post-Standard. Stephen D. Cannerelli/The Post-Standard. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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