What a decade it’s been for the Syracuse Orange. Through the past ten years, Orange fans have had its fair share of triumph and disappointment. But one thing is clear – being a Syracuse fan has never been dull. Here are the top ten stories from the past ten years.
NUMBER 10 – FIRST ROUND UPSETS AND NIT TRIPS
Although some may say that this was the decade for Syracuse basketball because of the 2003 National Championship, Syracuse fell far from grace in the following years.
In the 2004-05 season, the Orange started the season No. 5 in the country and had its eyes fixed firmly toward a trip to the final four. But forward Hakim Warrick’s final game with Syracuse ended on a bitter note as No. 4 seed Syracuse was upset by No. 13 Vermont in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
It would start a string of four dark years for Syracuse, as it failed to advance past the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The following year, No. 5 Syracuse was upset by No. 12 Oklahoma State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The next two seasons, Syracuse failed to qualify for the dance, as the Orange were banished to two consecutive NIT bids.
NUMBER 9 – BOEHEIM WINS 800
Boeheim coached his first game as Syracuse head coach on Nov. 26, 1976 as Syracuse topped Harvard 75-48. It was the first of many for the Hall of Fame coach, who notched his 800th career victory with a 75-43 victory over Albany on November 10, 2009.
Boeheim became just the eighth coach in NCAA Division I history to achieve that mark. Of current active coaches, only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun have more wins.
“The coaches and players that have been here have been consistently good for a long time,” Boeheim said. “You have to have a good fan base to have a good basketball program. You have to. You have to have people coming. We’ve always had that.”
NUMBER 8 – SU LAX WINS 2008 & 09 CHAMPIONSHIP
Syracuse established itself as the No. 1 lacrosse program of all time in this decade, capturing the title five times (2000, 02, 04, 08, 09) for a total of 11, which ranks first all time in Division I (Johns Hopkins is second with nine).
Each of the 2008 and 09 championships had its fair share of dramatic moments. In 2008, Syracuse needed overtime to topple Virginia in the National Semifinals, while in 2009, the Orange needed overtime in the title game to defeat Cornell.
“At Syracuse, the guys like being on top,” coach John Desko said. “That’s our goal as coaches and captains and leaders of this team.”
NUMBER 7 – ACC/BIG EAST DEFECTIONS
In 2003, the ACC changed the landscape of college sports by raiding the Big East and plucking Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College. The moves raised the ACC conference teams to 12, which gave it the minimum teams necessary for a conference a football title game.
Syracuse was one of the teams originally mentioned in a possible move, but plans never materialized.
The Big East regrouped and formed a 16-team basketball super-conference while maintaining respectability in football by adding Conference USA’s Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida (Connecticut would later add a Division I football team).
The moves set in motion events that affected the WAC, MAC, Sun Belt, Mountain West, and Atlantic Ten Conferences.
NUMBER 6 – GREG ROBINSON/DOUG MARRONE
When Greg Robinson assumed the reigns of the SU football team in 2005, no one could’ve predicted the debacle that was awaiting the Orange.
A highly successful coordinator both the pro and college ranks, Robinson rode a waive of optimism into Syracuse. But over the next four seasons, Syracuse would go 10–37 overall with just a 3–25 record in Big East play. Robinson was an unmitigated disaster, and the Orange played through its worst four year stretch in school history.
In the wake of the firing of Robinson, Syracuse turned to Doug Marrone, a former lineman at Syracuse in the 1980s. While Marrone won only four games in his first year as head coach, he has the fan base believing that Syracuse football can be relevant again in the near future.
NUMBER 5 – MIKE POWELL GOES OUT ON TOP
Before Mike Powell’s time at Syracuse was done in 2004, all he had done was become a four-time All American, the only player to ever win the Jack Turnbull Award as the top attackman in Division I lacrosse four consecutive times and capture the Tewaaraton Trophy twice.
Arguably the most decorated player in Syracuse’s rich history, Powell also went out on top, as he led Syracuse to the 2004 National Championship. Powell’s five assists and one goal spurred the Orange to a 14-13 win over Navy and cemented his place as SU’s all time leading scorer with 307 points.
“To end my career, scoring the last goal and winning by one in the national championship game, Hollywood should probably buy it,” Powell said.
NUMBER 4 – FIRING OF PAUL PASQUALONI
Paul Pasqualoni was the second winningest coach in school history, amassing a 107-59-1 record, 6-3 in bowlgames, in 14 years. But after going 10-3 in 2001, Syracuse struggled for the rest of Pasqualoni’s tenure including a disastrous 51-14 loss in the Champs Sports Bowl to Georgia Tech.
With Syracuse’s consistent mediocrity and growing apathy among its fan base, the Orange dismissed Pasqualoni two days after Christmas in 2004.
NUMBER 3 – GERRY’S 2006 BIG EAST TOURNAMENT RUN
Prior to the 2006 Big East tournament, Sports Illustrated ran a poll of Big East players and assistant coaches, and SU guard Gerry McNamara was named as the Big East’s “Most Overrated Player.” It came during a time when Syracuse seemed headed for the NIT with the Orange coming into Madison Square Garden as the No. 9 seed.
McNamara quickly silenced his critics over the next few days culminating in him hoisting the Dave Gavitt Award as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player as Syracuse pulled off the most improbable run to the Big East Championship in conference history.
In the first round, McNamara hit a running 3-pointer with less than a second left to give Syracuse a 74-73 win. Following the game, coach Jim Boeheim unleashed a profanity laced defense of his star guard.
The next day, McNamara led Syracuse to an upset of No. 1 Connecticut as he nailed a deep three to send the game to overtime before Syracuse prevailed in a 86-84 win. McNamara finished with 17 points and 13 assists. McNamara’s key assist to guard Eric Devendorf along with his 17 points and five assists sealed a win over Georgetown in the semifinals before his 14 points and six assists helped top Pittsburgh in the championship.
“Some guys win one game once in a while in a year, or two,” Boeheim said, “I don’t anybody’s ever won four in a row by making the play in the game. That’s pretty special.”
NUMBER 2 – SYRACUSE OUTLASTS UCONN
Boeheim has coached more than 800 victories over a 30 year period. So when he had the following to say about Syracuse’s amazing 127-117 win over Connecticut, it wasn’t to be taken lightly.
“I’ve never been prouder of any team I’ve coached,” Boeheim said.
Jonny Flynn’s 34 points and 10 assists led Syracuse to a victory for the record books, as the game was the longest game in Big East history, and second longest in NCAA Division I history.
NUMBER 1 – SYRACUSE WINS THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Kansas guard Michael Lee was no Keith Smart.
Warrick’s block of Lee’s potential game-tying 3-pointer sealed a 81-78 Syracuse victory in the 2003 National Championship game in the Louisiana Superdome.
The win erased any bitterness from the 1987 championship game played at the same venue. In that game, Smart’s late jumper propelled Indiana to a championship over Syracuse and left Boeheim reeling.
In this game, the Orangemen’s freshmen ruled. Tournament MVP Carmelo Anthony scored 20 points and added 10 rebounds in his final game in a Syracuse uniform. McNamara hit six first half 3-pointers as Syracuse built an early 18 point lead.
But in the second half, Kansas chipped the lead down to three, setting up the game’s dramatic conclusion.
With five seconds remaining, Kansas guard Kirk Hinrich had an open 25-foot look, but instead dished to Lee, who was wide open on the baseline. But Warrick raced out and used every bit of his 7-foot wingspan to swat the ball harmlessly away with .7 seconds left. Hinrich would have another shot at tying the game, but the ball sailed long.
And with that, a 27-year 879-game journey finally culminated in an NCAA championship for Boeheim.
“I guess he has a supposed monkey on his back,” said Syracuse senior Kueth Duany. “I guess you can take that off now.”
This article appeared in the February 2010 issue of The Juice.