Originally Published: June 19, 2014

Top 50 coaches: No. 12 Jim Boeheim

By ESPN.com

Jim BoeheimCal Sport Media via AP ImagesJim Boeheim took over at Syracuse in 1976, when the Orange didn't belong to a conference.

Editor's note: During the next five weeks, we will reveal the top 50 coaches in college basketball as decided by our ESPN Forecast panel. Today we unveil No. 12: Syracuse's Jim Boeheim. On Friday, we release No. 11.


This is not a legacy measure.

For all of the different ways our 45 ESPN Forecast college hoops panelists might have weighed their scores of the nation's top 50 -- and there are all sorts of ways individual emphases can come into play -- this was the defining criterion. These rankings were never meant to be about the aggregate work of a coach's lifetime. They are meant to cover current performance. It's a broadly limited term.

We've repeated that reminder as much as possible these last few weeks. Really, we can't stress it enough. And it's as important as ever now, as the countdown bears in on the top 10, and the names we so closely associate with tenure and legacy are revealed through this intentionally short-sighted prism.

Having said that: Is Jim Boeheim at No. 12 too low?

Given the lofty company, the panel is probably right. And No. 12 is hardly an insult.

In any case, it's not hard to make the argument for Boeheim -- and not just the career argument, but the accounting of his last few years -- about the current strength of Syracuse men's basketball. It was just a year ago, after all, that the Syracuse went to its fourth Final Four under its monolithic coach, when a team that lost seven Big East games congealed into one of the most ferocious postseason defenses in the past decade. (In their five 2013 tourney games, the Orange held Montana, California, Indiana, Marquette and Michigan to 244 points in 313 possessions. That's insane.) Last spring, Boeheim lost his top three perimeter players (one of whom, Michael Carter-Williams, went on to look like a future star in the NBA) and then, led by brilliant freshman guard Tyler Ennis, started the 2013-14 season 25-0.

Syracuse had a bit of an offensive breakdown toward the tail end of the season; the Orange lost six of their last nine, including a round-of-32 loss against Dayton. Maybe that hurt Boeheim in the voting slightly. But a larger view of the man's past six seasons makes it hard to overlook the successes. In six years, Syracuse has never been lower than a No. 4 seed (which they were last season). They've been a No. 3-seed three times. They've been seeded No. 1 twice. They won two regular-season Big East titles (2009-10, 2011-12).

Jim Boeheim
Rich Barnes/Getty ImagesBoeheim also helped USA Basketball win gold as an assistant at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Most impressively, they've done it every season despite suffering significant personnel losses. In 2010-11, after losing Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, and Arinze Onuaku, the Orange went 27-8 despite getting almost nothing from top recruit Fab Melo. Then, Boeheim had sophomore guard Dion Waiters waiting in the wings, a new star for another excellent team. In 2012-13, Carter-Williams emerged in similar fashion. And so on. Boeheim recruits well, sure, but he also develops players at their own pace. Whatever roster holes appear to open up in June end up looking silly by December. And he does this every single year.

Speaking of every year: What about the 2-3 zone? Think about this: Every year, every game, Boeheim's team plays the exact same defense. The exact same! Every time! And every year, his teams play some of the nation's best defense: They haven't ranked outside the top 20 in adjusted efficiency since 2008-09. In a world of fetishized tactical flexibility, of coaches obsessed with over-thinking, this dude is still playing the exact same defense he's trotted out for the past God-knows-how-many-games, and people still can't figure it out.

That, in the end, is the greatest testament to Boeheim's ability. It's not just the longevity, the consistency, so many seasons in the same place, so many wins. It's that after all that, in the twilight of his career, Boeheim is every bit as good as he's ever been. Maybe even better.

-- Eamonn Brennan


Previous: Nos. 50-25 » No. 24: McKillop » No. 23: McDermott » No. 22: Amaker »
No. 21: Brown » No. 20: Matta » No. 19: Wright » No. 18: Fisher » No. 17: Few »
No. 16: Williams » No. 15: Hoiberg » No. 14: Bennett » No. 13: Smart »

Full Top 50 Coaches List

No. 50: Tie -- Randy Bennett, Saint Mary's; Scott Drew, Baylor

No. 49: Richard Pitino, Minnesota

No. 48: Stew Morrill, Utah State

No. 47: Bob Hoffman, Mercer

No. 46: John Thompson III, Georgetown

No. 45: Mike Brey, Notre Dame

No. 44: Rick Barnes, Texas

No. 43: Chris Mack, Xavier

No. 42: Josh Pastner, Memphis

No. 41: Ed Cooley, Providence

No. 40: Bruce Weber, Kansas State

No. 39: Tubby Smith, Texas Tech

No. 38: Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech

No. 37: Rick Byrd, Belmont

No. 36: Steve Alford, UCLA

No. 35: Phil Martelli, Saint Joseph's

No. 34: Tad Boyle, Colorado

No. 33: Fran McCaffery, Iowa

No. 32: Tim Miles, Nebraska

No. 31: Lon Kruger, Oklahoma

No. 30: Bob Huggins, West Virginia

No. 29: Jim Crews, Saint Louis

No. 28: Jim Larranaga, Miami

No. 27: Mick Cronin, Cincinnati

No. 26: Archie Miller, Dayton

No. 25: Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh

No. 24: Bob McKillop, Davidson

No. 23: Greg McDermott, Creighton

No. 22: Tommy Amaker, Harvard

No. 21: Larry Brown, SMU

No. 20: Thad Matta, Ohio State

No. 19: Jay Wright, Villanova

No. 18: Steve Fisher, San Diego State

No. 17: Mark Few, Gonzaga

No. 16: Roy Williams, North Carolina

No. 15: Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State

No. 14: Tony Bennett, Virginia

No. 13: Shaka Smart, VCU

No. 12: Jim Boeheim, Syracuse

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