Jim Boeheim

It would be fair to say that the last two seasons have not been the best in Syracuse men’s basketball history. In fact, statistically speaking, it’s the worst two-year stretch that the program has gone through since before Jim Boeheim took over as head coach in 1976.

Barring a magical run in the ACC Tournament, Syracuse is going to miss the NCAA Tournament for the second-consecutive season. And while the Orange have been to the Final Four as recently as 2016 and the Sweet Sixteen as recently as 2021, there’s been an undeniable drumbeat from corners of the Syracuse fanbase that it’s probably time for the 78-year-old head coach to hang it up, or at the very least, make his retirement and succession plans known.

None of this has been lost on Cuse’s curmudgeonly head coach, who has been getting mad at reporters for asking about retirement (and just about everything else) for decades now. And while local radio shows have been full of callers demanding change, Boeheim has been quietly listening and waiting for his chance to clap back.

He got that opportunity on Saturday when 24,590 Orange fans packed the JMA Wireless Dome to watch Syracuse dispatch Wake Forest in the final home game of the season. They also came to celebrate the 2003 National Championship team and see the jerseys of Gerry McNamara and Hakim Warrick get retired. While the program has stalled and wins have become harder to come by, it was a reminder of how easily the fanbase can come together to celebrate.

After the game, Boeheim took to his bully pulpit and admonished fans who have called into radio shows to complain about the state of the program.

“The fans here, they’re not the ones calling the radio show,” said Boeheim to reporters. “Not one fan that was here tonight calls any radio show. The people that call the radio shows do not come to games. They don’t have season tickets. The only way they come is if someone gives them a ticket.

“[Tonight’s crowd] reflects what our fanbase thinks of our program… 24,500 people. And you think that people are upset with our program? Yeah, they’re upset, the one’s sitting home calling. That’s who’s upset.

“Do I want to do better? Yeah, I want to do better. But the people that show up tell you whether you have support or not. Not who calls on the radio.”

First things first, let’s give Boeheim some credit.

The numbers don’t lie that 24,590 fans showed up for the game despite the fact that the Orange are mired in a 17-14 season that is unlikely to produce a meaningful postseason. That’s not something many programs can do.

And when it comes to radio show callers, it would be fair to say that, much like internet commenters, they can represent a very vocal minority. Sometimes, they can offer extreme opinions that are heightened due to the need to make their appearance memorable.

However, as he often does, Boeheim is playing fast and loose with reality, using very selective information to make his point.

Yes, the crowd was big, but that was also because the school was retiring the jerseys of two of its most beloved players from the last 30 years and celebrating its only national championship team. This wasn’t just a basketball game, this was an event. Of course, fans were going to come out for that regardless of the state of the current team.

As far as Boeheim’s claim that fans upset with the state of the program don’t actually come to games, he was forgetting about Syracuse’s previous home game, a 20-point loss to lowly Georgia Tech in which many fans were “expressing their displeasure with boos throughout the second half.”

Guess that was the game all the radio callers scalped tickets for.

As far as implying that those who call into sports radio programs are not the kind who are truly supporting the program, Boeheim may want to look within. As ESPN Syracuse’s Brent Axe noted, “Jim in Fayetteville” has been known to make some impromptu calls of his own to voice his displeasure with the state of things.

Saturday’s game and celebration were a real high point for Syracuse’s 2022-2023 men’s basketball season. It was absolutely a day for fans to come out and show their appreciation for some of the program’s most iconic players and a historic 2003 team. It was a day for positivity in a season (and impending offseason) full of concerns and arguments. There might be tough questions ahead, but for this one day, all was right in the Orange world.

Leave it to Jim Boeheim to turn it into an opportunity to lash out at anyone who dares to disagree with his assessment of the situation.

[Brent Axe/Syracuse.com]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.