The headline on a Syracuse, N.Y., newspaper’s website Saturday morning was enough to make anyone with a sense of college basketball history recoil in disgust: “Move over, Wiz.”
You see, Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim needed a victory against Boston College to tie John Wooden with 664 victories, sharing 19th place on the all-time list, and got it when the No. 17-ranked Orangemen routed the unranked Eagles, 96-73, in the Carrier Dome.
For the record, the only thing Boeheim has in common with Wooden are those 664 victories.
Boeheim has spent 28 seasons at Syracuse making the sweet sound of sneakers on the hardwood seem like fingernails on a chalkboard, cutting as morose a figure as ever has stalked a college basketball sideline.
Pity the poor souls who helped Boeheim get his 664 victories. Perpetually sour, squinting through eyeglasses that always seem to be sliding off his nose, Boeheim has had success, including the 2003 NCAA title.
But at what price?
Wooden’s grace was never more evident than when he agreed this season to allow UCLA to name the Pauley Pavilion court in his honor, just as long as the school put his late wife Nell’s name first.
At the dedication last month, surrounded by dozens of former players, assistant coaches and team managers, Wooden seemed ill at ease with all the attention. Pointing to the current UCLA team, he told a hushed crowd of adoring fans, “I didn’t come to hear me. I came to watch these young men.”
There’s no reason Wooden -- who despises the “Wizard of Westwood” nickname, incidentally -- should ever move aside for any other coach.
Wooden is, first, last and always, college basketball’s greatest coach. Boeheim is just a guy who coaches college basketball.
Say this for Boeheim, he’s smart enough to realize he’ll never be in Wooden’s class.
“Nobody will ever come close to doing what John Wooden did,” he told the Syracuse Post-Standard. “Everything he did is in a different room -- no, not a different room; it’s in a different house -- from all the rest of us. There’s nobody who can even draw a breath in the same area as him. His record so outstrips everybody else, it’s almost hard to imagine.”
No Pleasing Him
Picking a winner out of a crowd proved to be a chore at Winston-Salem, N.C., where Wake Forest’s Skip Prosser looked and sounded like a losing coach during and after an Atlantic Coast Conference game against Clemson.
Prosser kicked the scorer’s table three times in frustration after watching Clemson score easy baskets. He was just as unhappy about the Demon Deacons’ inability to make more than 40% of their shots, including two of 13 three-point shots.
“We practice shooting,” Prosser said in deadpan fashion. “We just didn’t shoot the ball well. And in all frankness, we haven’t shot the ball well from three-point range for a while.”
Prosser also split up his customary three-guard lineup of Chris Paul, Justin Gray and Taron Downey.
“It’s not like Halloween [when] everyone who wears a [costume] gets candy,” Prosser said. “You’ve got to earn it. It is not written in stone that we are going to play three little guys.”
And to think No. 5 Wake Forest extended its winning streak to 11 to start the season and won its 24th consecutive home game with a 78-63 victory over unranked Clemson. The Tigers opened ACC play with a 73-54 loss to No. 2 Duke earlier in the week, so Coach Oliver Purnell sounded pleased with the improvement, however slight.
“I think the cup is both half full and half empty, but I think we have to look at it as half full in that we played better than we did at Duke,” Purnell said. “Our next step has got to be to get an ACC win on our home court in our next game.”
Wake Forest’s next step appears to be pleasing its coach.
Too Much Too Soon
Rick Pitino apologized for No. 10 Louisville’s 85-40 rout of short-handed South Florida in a Conference USA game at Tampa, Fla.
“There’s not much you can do because the subs I’m putting in the game on our basketball team, with the exception of maybe the top two guys, are just as good as the guys on the court,” Pitino sad after the Cardinals won their 11th consecutive game.
“The worst type of team to play when you’re short-handed is a team that plays 11 people and is deep and presses. So we weren’t the ideal opponent for a team that has injuries and is banged up.”
Louisville, which held South Florida to 26.5% shooting and forced 22 turnovers, has won its first two conference games by an average of 39.5 points.
Charles Bass, who missed a free throw so badly last season that it banked in and helped Ohio State to a Big Ten tournament upset of Michigan State, has transferred to Ball State. Bass, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, will be eligible in the fall semester.
That’s another blow for the Buckeyes, who are winless in two conference games, including a 66-47 loss to Penn State on Saturday. The Buckeyes are 8-7 overall, and it’s been a while since Coach Jim O’Brien could face reporters with a snappy one-liner like the one after Bass’ free throw last March.
“C. Bass, off glass,” O’Brien joked after Bass’ lone free throw in 15 games last season gave Ohio State a semifinal upset of Michigan State.
Meanwhile, Penn State’s 2-0 conference record marks its best Big Ten start since it began the 1995-96 season with a 4-0 record.
Tiger Bait, Tiger Bait
With Louisiana State savoring its share of the national championship in football, the Tiger basketball team continued to roll with a 70-66 victory over Alabama in a Southeastern Conference game at LSU.
Not long after the basketball team improved to 11-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play (for the first time since 1995), football Coach Nick Saban announced he was staying at the school, rather than accepting a job with the Chicago Bears.
Maybe this is the year of the Tiger, after all.
Times wire services contributed to this report.
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Catching a Legend
Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim won his 664th game Saturday, tying John Wooden for 19th on the NCAA’s all-time list among Division I coaches. When Wooden retired in 1975 after 29 seasons at Indiana State and UCLA, he was fifth behind Adolph Rupp (876 victories in 41 seasons), Henry Iba (764 in 41 seasons), Ed Diddle (759 in 42 seasons) and Phog Allen (746 in 48 seasons). The following are the Division I coaches who passed Wooden in victories since his retirement, and where they rank.
*--* Rk Coach Seasons Schools Wins 1 Dean Smith 36 North Carolina 879 3 Jim Phelan 49 Mt. St. Mary’s 830 4 Bob Knight* 38 Army, Indiana, Texas Tech 822 5 Lefty Driesell 42 Davidson, Maryland, James 800 Madison, Georgia State 6 Lou Henson* 40 Hardin-Simmons, Illinois, New 769 Mexico State 10 Eddie Sutton* 34 Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky, 734 Oklahoma State 11 Jerry Tarkanian 31 Long Beach State, UNLV, Fresno 729 State 12 Norm Stewart 38 Northern Iowa, Missouri 728 13 Ray Meyer 42 DePaul 724 14 Don Haskins 38 Texas El Paso 719 15 Lute Olson* 31 Long Beach State, Iowa, Arizona 701 16 John Chaney* 32 Cheyney, Temple 697 17 Denny Crum 30 Louisville 675 18 Mike Krzyzewski* 29 Army, Duke 674 19t Jim Boeheim* 28 Syracuse 664
* Active. Victory totals through Saturday
NOTE: Rupp (Kentucky) ranks second on all-time victories, Iba (NW Missouri State, Colorado, Oklahoma State) is seventh, Diddle (Western Kentucky) is eighth, Allen (Baker, Haskell, Central Missouri State, Kansas) is ninth.