ATLANTA — A lot has changed in the decade since Jim Boeheim last led Syracuse to the Final Four, defeating Kansas in New Orleans for the only national title in school history.
One thing that has not changed, however, is Boeheim’s sardonic wit.
He showed as much on Thursday while answering questions ahead of the Orange’s national semifinal against Michigan on Saturday at the Georgia Dome – particularly those about whether he knew when he was going to retire.
Boeheim, 68, has been Syracuse’s coach since 1976.
“I think I started (coaching) … I can’t keep track … at 31 or 32,” Boeheim said. “I was hoping to make it to 38. That was really the only thought I had: Can I make it to 38?
“They wanted to give me a three-year contract, I held out for four. I told them I was going to the University of Rochester and they gave me the extra year. It would have helped my golf game, but not my coaching career.”
Boeheim can joke now, but he’s had to build the Orange back up through last 10 years — after winning the title they weren’t in the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and 2008 and didn’t make it back to the Elite Eight until last season.
“I wouldn’t have expected going into the tournament that we were going to be here,” Boeheim said. “The thing you say all year long, which sometimes people think it’s just ... coach speak, whatever it is, is that you have a chance. You do. You really do. If you’re one of the top-20 teams or 30.
“I remember seeing Wichita State play a couple times during the year and I was impressed, but they lost. But you could see they were a pretty good team.”
Boeheim actually thought last season’s Syracuse team — with NBA draft picks Dion Waiters, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph — had a better shot at playing in the Final Four than this year’s.
“The satisfaction level when you get here, it’s great,” Boeheim said. “I was disappointed last year. I thought we had the team to do it. Then when Arinze (Onuaku) got hurt three years ago, I thought we had our best team, our best chance to do it really. That just took our team apart.”
So with the Orange back in college basketball’s spotlight, all is well. Right?
“The majority (of fans) still probably want me back next year, right now,” Boeheim said. “After Saturday, who knows?”