I’ve been trying to write an article about the current state of the Syracuse basketball program for a while now. And every time I get started, I pause.
Take a deep breath…
It’s not as bad as it seems…
The team always turns it around…
They’ll figure it out…
I keep waiting for that annual turnaround to happen. We are all…still…waiting.
The team continues to struggle. It is losing games to bad teams in embarrassing fashion, and seemingly finding new and even more humiliating ways to accomplish that feat on a nightly basis. And even as the season spirals into oblivion, young and potentially important players for the future are sitting on the bench while players in their final years continue to eat minutes in increasingly meaningless games in an increasingly lost season.
And Coach Jim Boeheim, one of the best to ever coach the game, doesn’t seem to have many easy answers with this lineup as it is currently constructed. For whatever reason…recruiting….injury….an overall lack of athleticism…the simple underachievement of players…this roster just doesn’t appear to align with the offensive and defensive schemes that have been a trademark of the program for decades. And it’s showing on the court.
Frustration is boiling over for Syracuse basketball fans.
Now, it’s as if a pressure valve among the fan base has reached its limit and the Syracuse community is eating itself from within. Fans are turning on the media. Media are turning on fans. Fans and media are turning on one another.
“You aren’t the right kind of fan!”
”Well, you aren’t asking the right kind of questions!”
And, it goes without saying, everyone it seems has turned on the team, the coaches, and the program as a whole.
It’s truly a dark time to be a Syracuse basketball fan. I see some similarities to how I felt as a Syracuse football fan in the early 2000’s when the team began to falter only to fall off a cliff shortly thereafter. Will that happen again?
I don’t know what the future holds. Will the Syracuse basketball program be the next St. John’s? A once-dominant program that, had its first losing season in three decades in the early 1990s and then slowly devolved into being a middle of the pack national program. Or can Syracuse bounce back as quickly as the University of North Carolina’s basketball program did, which bounced back from a disastrous 2001-2002 8-win campaign to winning a National Championship only three years later?
Now, one of the key factors that helped facilitate UNC’s rapid turnaround was a coaching change. And I am hearing lots and lots of chatter about how Syracuse University AD John Wildhack needs to step in and “make a change” at the top.
Let me make my take this abundantly clear. Jim Boeheim built this program…it needs to be his call when he moves on. Period. Hard stop. Now, do I personally believe that the program could potentially benefit from a new offensive and defensive scheme that is more in line with the NBA that recruits want to play in? Sure. But do I think it’s automatic that a new coach actually makes that happen? No.
Programs often bring in coaches that have played at the school before, and that means a former Syracuse player who was coached by Jim Boeheim is very likely going to install a very similar system to the one that currently is in place. In that instance, we’re talking about the same or a similar system with a younger coach with less cache? I don’t know that this is an immediate net positive.
Be the fan you want to be…but with one ask.
Regardless of what comes next, I know that I’m going to support the team in my own way throughout this process. And that’s my charge to all of my fellow fans, and to the Syracuse media. Let fans be the kind of fans they want to be. I’ve said this before about the football program, and I never thought I would have to say something so similar so soon about fans of the basketball program. But if a fan wants to complain…be cynical…be despondent. Let them. At least they still care. Apathy is the enemy. We’ve seen that for far too long with the football program. Caring, and passion, are good.
It means something deep inside is still alive.
Would I personally choose to protest the state of the program with my pocketbook by going to fewer games? No. But can I blame fans that do, considering it often appears that often money is the only thing that drives change? Honestly…no.
However, I do have one ask. And it’s a big one. It speaks to the core of the type of fan, and fan base, we want to be.
When on social media, don’t attack players or coaches on a personal level. Keep it on the court, and keep it civil and fair. Be respectful.
Don’t outwardly say “I hope they lose”. That’s a terrible look for a fan base. Even if, deep inside, you think that may be a “means to an end”…that’s a sentiment, I believe, remains best unsaid.
The Syracuse basketball program will get through this. Whether sooner or later, somehow, this program will bounce back.