Syracuse Basketball: Many reasons to feel excitement for Adrian Autry era

Syracuse basketball, Adrian Autry (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse basketball, Adrian Autry (Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

Back in March, when SU Athletics announced that Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim was no longer the head coach of Syracuse basketball, and he was being replaced by long-time assistant Adrian Autry, I had a lot of mixed emotions.

Putting aside that SU Athletics fumbled this announcement, my first emotion was one of bittersweet sadness. I’m a proud alumnus of Syracuse University, and obviously a huge fan of the basketball program.

Since I attended SU in the late 1990s until 2000, I’m a bit more old school than current generations. I miss the Big East Conference. I believe that Jim Boeheim has meant more to Syracuse basketball than perhaps any other coach has meant to his or her program in the history of college basketball.

And while many were ready for Boeheim to retire years ago, I wasn’t in that camp. But after a 16-17 record in 2021-22 and a 17-15 mark in 2022-23, I did think it was the right time for Boeheim to hang up his whistle, which he did this spring, giving way to his long-time lieutenant.

However, as much as I love and will miss Jim Boeheim roaming the sidelines, I’m pumped for Adrian Autry to officially begin his tenure as the Orange’s head coach, with the 2023-24 season set to commence in early November.

With Adrian Autry leading the charge, there is palpable buzz for Syracuse basketball.

Of course, Autry has yet to coach a game, so let’s see how he fares on the court in 2023-24. He’s also replacing a legend in Jim Boeheim, who retired with the second-most wins ever in Division I men’s basketball, along with a national championship, five Final Fours and 20 trips to the Sweet 16.

Those are big shoes to fill. Is Autry up to the challenge? You bet. Is he going to accomplish what Jim Boeheim did in nearly 50 years as the ‘Cuse head coach? I have no idea. None of us do.

But … but … one can’t help but feel good about the direction Autry hopes to – and plans to – take the Syracuse basketball program.

He’s said on numerous occasions that he will play a mix of man-to-man and zone defenses. I like that. He’s said he wants to play at a fast, up-tempo pace, get out in transition a lot and pressure the heck out of opposing teams. I dig that, too.

From a recruiting standpoint, Autry and his assistants are crushing things. They have two four-star commits in the 2024 cycle and are a finalist for a five-star guard in this class.

In recent months (and weeks), the Orange coaching staff has doled out a variety of scholarship offers to highly rated four-star and five-star players in the 2025 and 2026 classes, with a geographic focus on the New York and Washington, D.C., markets – but not shying away from other regions nationwide as well.

Yes, the ‘Cuse lost multiple players to the NCAA’s transfer portal this past off-season, including All-ACC center Jesse Edwards. At the same time, Autry & Co. brought in four transfers of its own as well as a 2023 three-star center who holds future promise.

Those transfers into the SU program include J.J. Starling, an All-ACC freshman performer a season ago at Notre Dame who was a five-star prospect in high school, as well as Chance Westry, a former four-star, top-40 overall player in the same recruiting cycle as Starling, the 2022 class.

Plus, key returnees in 2023-24 include sophomore point guard Judah Mintz, who will contend for All-America and All-ACC honors this upcoming season, junior forward Benny Williams, sophomore wing Justin Taylor, sophomore forward Chris Bell, sophomore forward Maliq Brown and sophomore guard/wing Quadir Copeland, among others.

Given that Autry wants to play at a fast, team-oriented pace, and that is likely to include full-court pressure and getting out in transition on offense more than in years past, he’s got the depth and versatility within his line-up of 13 scholarship players to do so.

It’s exciting. It should be fun to watch. I have no idea how many games the Orange will win in 2023-24 after missing the NCAA Tournament in each of the past two terms.

Hopefully, the ‘Cuse will return to the Big Dance and contend for an Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title. It will be weird watching my beloved Orange play without Boeheim at the helm, but Adrian Autry is the right man for the job.

I’m rooting for him to thrive in Central New York. So, too, are many other Syracuse basketball fanatics.

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