According to the NCAA Division I record book, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim ranks second in all-time wins with 920.
He actually has 921.
When I was a young TV sports anchor (with hair!) at WTVH-5 in Syracuse, I did a weekly segment called “Dare Dan.” Each Friday, I accepted a challenge from a viewer(s) to compete against him, her, or them in their sport/game/adventure of choice.
There were normal challenges like golf, tennis, whiffle ball, etc…but I also competed against a dog at catching Frisbees (I won), and I took on 27 residents of a senior citizens home in “Simon Says” (and lost to three of them).
My final “Dare Dan” before leaving Syracuse for a job at Fox 19 in Cincinnati was a basketball challenge from Syracuse’s Hall of Famer: I coached a team of young girls against a squad coached by Jim Boeheim.
After graduating from Syracuse, I covered Coach Boeheim’s teams for the first 10 years of my broadcasting career and – like nearly everybody on the Syracuse beat – got yelled at a few times. But I’ve always considered him to be a tremendous coach and learned a ton about basketball from hosting his radio show and watching his practices.
I’m thrilled that he’s going to his fourth Final Four and hope to continue my streak of being there for each of them.
In 1987, I was seated two rows directly behind Bobby Knight when Indiana beat the ‘Cuse 74-73 on Keith Smart’s game-winning jumper with :04 remaining. I was working on the Syracuse radio network as a post-game talk show host and with time winding down, I snuck to the edge of the court with my audio recorder in hopes of getting immediate reactions from the Syracuse players if they won the title. As it turned out, I was the first person to interview Smart moments after “the shot” before being shooed off the court by security.
By the way, for those who think that Coach Boeheim only plays a 2-3 zone, he actually went to a box-and-1 on Steve Alford on Indiana’s final possession (despite Billy Packer’s on-air call of man-to-man).
I’ve always thought it was a brilliant move by Boeheim as Alford never touched the ball in the final 28 seconds…unfortunately for SU fans, sometimes great coaching decisions don’t work out.
I moved to Cincinnati a few months before Syracuse returned to the Final Four in 1996 and couldn’t believe my luck when it looked like the Orange would face the Cincinnati Bearcats in the national semifinals (another free trip to cover a Final Four!) But Cincinnati was upset in the Elite 8 by Mississippi State and SU faced – and beat – the Bulldogs in the semifinals instead. I did make it to the Meadowlands as a ticket-buying fan, only to see Rick Pitino’s Kentucky team with nine guys that eventually played in the NBA beat the ‘Cuse for the title 76-67.
The 2003 Final Four is my favorite memory as a sports fan. I made the trip with my wife Peg (also a SU grad), and it was a basically a college reunion set in New Orleans. Not only did we see dozens of friends that we hadn’t seen in at least 10 years, but our team won!
Some of those college buddies verbally abused me for not wearing orange to the semifinal win over Texas, so I found the perfect shirt on Bourbon Street for the championship game against Kansas.
I haven’t worn that hideous shirt since, but I would love to break it out next Monday in Atlanta.
I can’t make it to the semifinals this time, but if Syracuse plays for the national title on Monday, I am determined to be there.
I would not want to miss Jim Boeheim going for his second national championship and his 922nd career win.
Make that #923.
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