Syracuse's Jim Boeheim is coaching in his 31st NCAA Tournament this week, a record for Division I head coaches. During Wednesday afternoon's press conference at First Niagara Center, I asked Boeheim what he remembered about his first one.
"My first as a coach?" Boeheim said. "I haven't been thinking about this, so I probably won't even remember. You''ll have to give me a clue. Let's see, first tournament. Is that when we beat Tennessee? I don't know. I swear to God. I wish I could remember. I think it was.
"We thought we had an easy tournament, and then we had Charlotte, and they had a guy named Cornbread Maxwell. It didn't turn out so easy. I think that was it. I'm not 100 percent."
Pete Moore, the basketball sports information man for SU, confirmed that it was indeed the 1977 NCAA tourney. Syracuse upset Tennessee in the first game of the Mideast Region, 93-88 in overtime. The Orangemen lost to NC-Charlotte in the Mideast semifinal, 81-59. There were 32 teams in the field in those days.
"We had to go to LSU and play Tennessee and play Ernie (Grunfeld) and Bernie (Bernard King)," Boeheim said. "We had an unbelievable game."
"Overtime," Moore said from the side of the interview table.
St. Bonaventure fans will surely recall that '77 season, which was Jim Baron's senior year. The Bonnies were the only team to beat Syracuse between Jan. 1 and the NCAAs that year. Syracuse got them back in the ECAC playoffs. SU went to the NCAA tourney. Bona went to the N.I.T. -- and won it.