KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The retirement of Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim reverberated across college basketball on Wednesday, including in Kansas City.
It’s unlikely any coach in the Big 12 knows Boeheim better than West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, who led the Mountaineers into the first round of the Big 12 Tournament a matter of hours after Boeheim’s announcement.
When Huggins took the job in Morgantown in 2007, the Mountaineers were in the Big East with Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange. For the next five seasons, Huggins and Boeheim locked horns in annual Big East battles, some of which Huggins has spoken of fondly in the past.
He also played for WVU in the the late 1970s when Boeheim was the head coach at Syracuse.
Huggins spoke about Boeheim for the first time after the Mountaineers’ game on Wednesday.
“I’m surprised,” Huggins said. “He’s a basketball die hard. And you know, he was he was coaching while I was playing. So we talked about that occasionally. I made two free throws to put them away. He’s a great guy. I think I think a lot of times people misunderstand what a really good guy he is and his humor. And he’s had an absolutely incredible career. He won 1000’s of games. It’s hard to do. It’s hard to do. It’s hard to stay at the top like he has.”
Boeheim’s retirement also makes Huggins Division I’s winningest active coach. He won his 935th game on Wednesday.
“I don’t think about it unless I come in here and listen to you guys,” Huggins said.
Boeheim announced his retirement after the Orange’s 77-74 loss to Wake Forest and exit from the ACC Tournament.
During his nearly half-century career with the Orange, Boeheim directed them to the 2003 national championship, in addition to Final Four appearances in 1987, 1996, 2013 and 2016. Syracuse made the NCAA Tournament 35 times under his watch.
Boeheim was also the 2010 Naismith College Coach of the Year and Associated Press Coach of the Year. He compiled a 1,015-440 (.698) career record, including a 48-28 mark in the Big Dance.
With Boeheim stepping aside, longtime assistant and former player Adrian Autry has been named the new head coach. Autry played for Boeheim from 1990-94 before embarking upon to a successful professional career primarily in European leagues, as well as in the United States Basketball League (USBL).
The Orange finished the 2022-23 campaign with a 17-15 record. That included a 10-10 record in the ACC.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard