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Give Boeheim credit, even for those November wins

On Sports
Rochester Business Journal
December 21, 2012

First of all, congratulations to Syracuse University basketball coach Jim Boeheim for winning his 900th game Monday night. He is only the third coach in the history of college hoops to pass the 900-win mark, trailing Bobby Knight (902) and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski (936).
The consensus is that Boeheim will never catch Krzyzewski because Coach K is three years younger than the SU legend and it's almost a given that Krzyzewski will retire with many more than 1,000 wins. Who knows how many more seasons Jim B will coach?
Congratulations to Boeheim as well for showing us something rarely seen before, during or after a game: He actually smiled broadly after his team's historic 72-68 victory over the University of Detroit in front of 17,902 loving fans in the Carrier Dome!
Boeheim never even grinned at me, let alone smiled, when I covered a few SU games way back when. I always thought maybe his feet were killing him. I remember interviewing him in the locker room once, and after about two minutes he just turned around and walked away.
There was no "Excuse me," no "Sorry, but I gotta go," no "Are you done?" My initial reaction was that maybe I had asked him if he could slip me a few bucks so I could buy enough gas to drive back to Rochester.
Then I figured he didn't like what I had written when Syracuse lost in the NCAA playoffs to Navy, 97-85-or, to be more specific, lost to David Robinson, who scored 35 points, had 11 rebounds and blocked 11 shots. SU had beaten Navy 89-67 during the regular season, but the Admiral took over in the Dome. Robinson went on to 14 years of stardom in the NBA, retiring in 2003.
In my column I referred to Boeheim as "Mr. November"--similar to Mr. October, Reggie Jackson-because of all the weak non-conference teams Syracuse played before starting its Big East Conference schedule. Soon the Orangemen will be doing the same in "preparation" for their Atlantic Coast schedule.
They're 10-0 going into Saturday's game against Temple at Madison Square Garden, with wins over Wagner, Princeton, Colgate, Eastern Michigan, Long Beach State, Monmouth and Canisius. Syracuse's average winning margin in those seven games: 33 points. Of course, that allows the benchwarmers to get some playing time.
As much as I respect Boeheim and his fabulous career, a team playing that schedule is like a guy who wants to be an Olympic weight-lifting gold medalist and gets ready for the games by bench-pressing 85 pounds. Or like an NFL team playing the Buffalo Bills seven times to get ready for the playoffs.
Ah yes, the Buffalo Bills. The playoff question has been answered: No, they won't make the playoffs for the 13th straight season. Now the only question remaining is who will be the Bills' next coach. And right behind that one is who will be the next general manager.
It wouldn't surprise me if head coach Chan Gailey really wants to get fired rather than just quitting, although he'd never admit it. Is this a contract issue, maybe? What I mean is that if owner Ralph Wilson fires Gailey, the contract probably has to be honored, but if Chan packs up and walks away, then it's void. Look, why would a Southerner want to stay up here in Western New York and suffer on the field and off?
Gailey's play-calling and game strategy are a joke. And he insists that Ryan Fitzpatrick is his quarterback to keep. The Bills actually do have some talent, but Gailey has his own game plan that doesn't fit-or he doesn't want it to fit. Coaches must alter their philosophy to fit the tools available. And way too often, Gailey hasn't done that.
The same is true for GM Buddy Nix. Maybe he'll be kept, but he has said he intends to keep Gailey as head coach. OK, insist on it, but that could result in the one-way tickets I asked Santa Claus to give them.
Given all that, the big question is who would replace Gailey as head coach. Could Nix, or whoever, find some unemployed football depressant who enjoys wallowing in misery? That sort of person could take over the team and be in football heaven.
OK, OK, I'm joking!
The Bills (5-9) are at Miami (6-8) this Sunday and end the season the following Sunday at home against the New York Jets (6-8). They lost on the road to the Jets, 48-28, in Week 1 and beat Miami, 19-14, at home in Week 11.
Some of the players said earlier this week that the last two games could either help or hurt everybody's job security. I would agree if they were closing out against two .500 or better teams, but ... well, we'll see, won't we?

Rick Woodson's column appears each Thursday on the Rochester Business Journal website at His book, "Words of Woodson," is available at Listen to his weekly program, "The Golf Tee," at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHTK-AM 1280 and FM 107.12/21/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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