Syracuse Basketball: Jim Boeheim's Passive Approach Is the Wrong One

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Syracuse Basketball: Jim Boeheim's Passive Approach Is the Wrong One

Jim Boeheim is never wrong. Just ask him. He’ll tell you the same thing.

That’s what I dislike most about the legendary coach: His smug and elitist attitude. 

Called out on a radio show earlier this week where a caller questioned his famous “take the foot off the gas and nurse the lead home” strategy—he did what he usually does when he gets a tough question. He sniped back with a curt, dismissive answer in his famously condescending way. 

Fittingly, today’s season-crushing meltdown to Pittsburgh—by the way I wonder how many remotes were smashed by Orange fans today, reinforces that his strategy is a dumb one. 

Yes, from the cold and calculated perspective, it makes sense to milk the clock and limit possessions coming down the stretch of a basketball game.  But what about the emotional element of the game? 

For the life of me, I’ve never understood why you would go away from how you had built your lead—see the prevent defense in the NFL—and switch to a passive let’s-just-hang-on-to-the-lead strategy. 

There’s something to be said for staying aggressive and slitting the other guy’s throat when you have him down. Timidity is for losers. 

And Orange fans see this play out on an almost annual basis in squandering games like today’s that were already in the win column (see Louisville 2007 for another recent example) and also in the form of seat-squirming wins that should have been decisive (see 2003 NCAA Title Game). 

When faced with the choice of doing something aggressive or passive, I think coaches/managers should err on the side of aggressiveness. 

It tells your players: “I believe in you guys, let’s go kick their a** and finish the job.”

Jim Boeheim is the type of coach who would probably disagree with what Ozzie Guillen and Tom Coughlin did at the end of the regular seasons during their recent championship years. 

If he was the White Sox skipper, I bet he would have rested his regulars during that last weekend series against the Indians when they had nothing quantifiable to gain by playing hard to finish their season. If he were the Giants’ coach, he would have played the taxi squad and lost 52-0 in Week 17 to the Patriots because they were locked into their playoff seed and it’s the “smart” thing to do.

Just like it, supposedly, is “smart” to limit possessions at the end of basketball games you’re leading in. 

Look, Boeheim is a legendary coach who has done amazing things for Syracuse basketball.  He’s climbed to the top of the mountain, but he’s not perfect and I just wish he’d admit that once in a while. 

Boeheim is old and probably too stuck in his ways to change his philosophy on this strategy so here’s hoping Mike Hopkins takes all the good points Boeheim has and goes the Coughlin/Ozzie route at crunch time.

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