Saturday, June 28, 2008

Greene goes 28th

Congratulations to Donte' Greene for being selected in the 1st round of the NBA draft last Thursday, by the Memphis Grizzlies. His time in Memphis was very short, as he ended up being traded to the Houston Rockets overnight.

Greene was probably somewhat disappointed as he did not end up being a lottery selection, as was originally projected by many back mid season. Yet, being a first round pick is going to put some nice change in his pocket, so I don’t think he will be too disappointed.

Greene is the 15th former Orangemen to be selected in the 1st round of the NBA draft, the 51st Orangemen ever drafted, and the first Orangeman drafted in the first round since Hakim Warrick was the 19th pick in 2005 by the same Memphis Grizzlies. With the assumption that Greene does make the NBA roster and play next year for Houston (or any other NBA team), he will be the 36th former Syracuse player to play in the NBA.

The first were Bob Shaddock and Lew Spicer in 1947; Shaddock would play a mere two games with the Syracuse Nationals, and Spicer four with the Providence Steamrollers. The first Syracuse player to be a regular in the NBA was Bullet Billy Gabor in 1949. Gabor would make an impact in the NBA being named to the all rookie team his first season, make the NBA All-Star team in 1953, and win the NBA Championship with the Nationals in 1955.

The greatest Syracuse player in NBA history is Hall of Famer Dave Bing, who was the 2nd overall pick in the 1966 draft by the Detroit Pistons. Bing would score 18,327 points in his 12 year NBA career, averaging 20.3 ppg and 6.0 assists per game, and play in seven NBA All-Star games.

Danny Schayes played more games than any former Orangemen in NBA history with 1,138 games over 18 seasons. Schayes started for a few seasons, but really found a solid role as a reserve center, with his ability to play smart basketball, make the free throws and jump shots, and grab rebounds as needed.

Derrick Coleman is the only Orangemen drafted number 1 overall in the NBA draft, going to the New Jersey Nets in 1990. Now Coleman was a bust as a number one pick; he never reached the stardom predicted for him, and he had the talent and ability to be a great NBA player. That is not to say Coleman was a bust in the NBA. He did have a solid fifteen year career, averaging 16.5 ppg and 9.3 rebounds a game. Those aren’t bad numbers, and he was the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 1991, and on the All-Star team in 1994. They’re just not the numbers expected from the number one overall pick.

Other Orangemen have gone on to productive NBA careers. Sherman Douglas played 12 years, averaging 11.0 ppg and 5.9 assists per game, showing that he could master the alley-oop pass in the professional leagues as well as he did at college.

Louis Orr played 8 seasons averaging 9.8 ppg, Billy Owens played 11 seasons averaging 11.7 ppg, though injuries hounded him throughout his career. Rony Seikaly played a solid eleven seasons scoring 14.7 ppg, along with 9.5 rebounds a game. And John Wallace played 7 seasons, averaging 7.6 ppg.

Greene is going to join 6 current Orangemen who are in the NBA (or at least on the fringes of it). Carmelo Anthony is starring out in Denver, and barring injury, will easily be Syracuse’s second best NBA player ever, and possibly even the best (time will tell).

Jason Hart is going into his eighth season, now with the Utah Jazz. Etan Thomas as been a solid player for the Washington Wizards, and should be back from his injury this year. Hakim Warrick almost had Greene as a teammate down in Memphis; instead Warrick will need to battle a slew of new players brought in by draft day trades. Darryl Watkins and Demetris Nichols are both struggling to stay on NBA teams; Watkins played nine games last season, and Nichols played 14.

It will be interesting to see how Donte' Greene’s ends up. He is clearly not ready today, and NBA scouts took note as his stoke dropped as draft day approached and his workouts were not as impressive as other players. A few months ago I suggested that going professional was perhaps not a bad idea for Greene, since he risked having his stock plummet with another season at Syracuse if he did not learn to rebound or play defense. Considering that his stock dropped anyhow, I would have to recant that, and say that Greene would definitely have been better off staying at Syracuse one more year, and improved his overall draft position.

Donte', thank you for your time at Syracuse, and good luck in the NBA.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Impactful Orangemen

Syracuse has been blessed with several talented young men who have allowed Orange fans to enjoy many joyful moments over the years associated with the basketball program. Names like Dave Bing, Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman, Sherman Douglas and Billy Owens are only a few of the names to have shined on the Hill.

There are some players, whether it was happenstance by being in the right place at the right time, or through their own presence, had a profound positive impact on Syracuse basketball, not only when they played, but over the years that followed.

The following is not a list of the ten best players in Syracuse basketball players (though it surely does contain some of the best), but rather those players who had a significant and lasting impact on the Orange basketball.

Roosevelt Bouie and Louis Orr starts out the list at number 10. The talented duo helped transform the Syracuse basketball program into a perennial top 10 program under rookie head coach Jim Boeheim. The Bouie & Louie Show drew national attention to the Syracuse program as the team went 100-18 over their four years. Post season success would not be obtained by the team, though four straight NCAA berths were secured. The arrival of the duo elevated Syracuse to a national program with an identity.

Art Powell was the leader of the Syracuse basketball team from 1904 through 1907, playing both center and guard. The Syracuse basketball program was fledgling before Powell arrived. Powell was immediately the star of the team. He had been highly an successful AAU player in Masden Park (Buffalo) for the Buffalo Germans before coming to Syracuse, and he convinced three of his teammates, George Kirchgasser, George Redlein and Max Riehl to come to Syracuse. These four players helped Syracuse build and sustain a successful basketball program in the early years.

At number eight is Vinnie Cohen. Cohen, more than any other player, was responsible for the successful integration of the Syracuse basketball program. Cohen wasn’t the first African American at Syracuse; Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was first, almost sixteen years earlier. But Syracuse did not have another African American player after Singh until the early 1950s. Cohen wasn’t even the first in his era, as Manny Breland and Ronnie Kilpatrick preceded him. However, Cohen was undoubtedly the star of the team his first year on the court (1954-1955), and would lead the Orangemen in scoring all three seasons. Cohen was a scholar athlete, eschewing opportunities to play professional basketball in order to obtain a law degree. He would elevate the Syracuse program from a 10-9 program (in 1954) to the school’s first NCAA bid and an elite eight appearance in the 1957 season. In a decade where Syracuse football was dominant, Cohen kept Syracuse basketball relevant and he proved that African American players were not only capable of playing on the team, but carrying it to the next level.

The Lee Brothers come in at number seven. Mike was an undersized forward with a solid shooting touch and outstanding hustle and determination on the court. Jimmy, two years his junior, was a sweet shooting guard, with a knack of hitting clutch jump shots. Both were fundamentally solid players with excellent free throw shooting and ball handling skills. Syracuse went 11-14, 9-16 and 12-12 before Mike Lee arrive. When Mike arrived for the 1970-1971 season, until Jimmy graduated in the 1974-1975 season, the Orange would go to the postseason every year, capping it with a strong underdog run to the NCAA Final Four in 1975. Syracuse had better players than the Lee’s when the arrived, and during their tenure, but the brothers the skill set and determination that help Roy Danforth build a solid program.

Vic Hanson is number six on the list. Hanson would turn Syracuse into the dominant team on the east coast, and would help launch the highly successful year of rookie head coach Lew Andreas. Syracuse went 8-12 and 8-10 the year before Hanson stepped on the varsity court; the Orange would go 15-2 his sophomore year, 19-1 his junior year, and 15-4 his senior year. Hanson’s junior year Syracuse was recognized as the #1 team in the nation by the Helms Foundation. Syracuse would maintain success after Hanson, and was a solid team throughout the 1930s. Hanson would coach basketball and football, and help recruit players for the Orange, remaining active with the program.

At number five comes the man who saved the Syracuse basketball program in the early 1990s. Syracuse was under scrutiny from the NCAA for rules violations, and the program was waiting for the punishment to be handed down. Syracuse recruiting was suffering as a result. Meanwhile, freshman Lawrence Moten came out of no where his freshman season to score 18.2 points a game. Moten was a fundamentally solid player, a quiet man who let his actions do his talking. He played with the confidence and maturity of a senior as a freshman, never forcing the action, and yet somehow always ending up with his 20 points at the end of the night. Syracuse would go on probation Moten’s sophomore year, but he the program never missed a beat as it continued to keep winning. A couple years after Moten left the Orange were back in the NCAA Final Four, and the impact of the NCAA probation was barely noticed.

Carmelo Anthony comes in at number 4. All Melo did was lead the Orangemen to their first NCAA National Championship in 2003, his lone season on the campus. Anthony averaged 22.2 points a game and 10.0 rebounds a game that season, and the team flowed offensively through him. He had a lot of help that championship season, particularly from Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara, but Anthony was the icon and leader. The season prior to Anthony, the team had imploded upon itself, and Anthony helped wipe away memories of that season. His presence in the spotlight, and continued success in the NBA, has helped Syracuse continue to recruit top flight talent. The program hasn’t built on Anthony’s success, which is keeping him lower on this list… but the championship alone is a significant impact.

Dwayne ‘The Pearl’ Washington is number three on the list. The Pearl was a highly recruited guard out of Brooklyn, with name recognition prior to coming to Syracuse. He came to the Hill, and was as good as advertised. The Pearl dazzled fans with his style of play, and immediately helped the Orangemen become competitive in the Big East, at a time when legendary players like Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin and Eddie Pinkney were leading other teams. Syracuse started to draw 30,000+ fans to the Carrier Dome to see the Pearl play, and Syracuse became one of the teams you had to watch on television. The Pearl brought exposure to the program that had never been seen before, and coach Jim Boeheim was able to recruit top talent such as Derrick Coleman, Stephen Thompson and Billy Owens as a result. The Pearl also helped an unknown guard Sherman Douglass learn the ropes during rough practice sessions, which delivered dividends for the Orange very shortly after the Pearl left.

Dave Bing is number two on the list. To say that the Syracuse basketball program was bad before Bing would be an understatement. Syracuse was 4-19, 2-22, and 8-13 before Dave Bing stepped on the varsity court, and Syracuse football was at its pinnacle of power. The basketball program could have faded into obscurity (if it in fact was not already there). As a freshman, more fans would flock to see the freshman team to watch Bing play than would watch the varsity. Bing would step on the court and take the Orange to the NIT Tournament his sophomore season, averaging 22.2 points a game and 8.2 rebounds. The team struggled early his junior season on the way to a disappointing 13-10 record, but would go to the NCAA Tournament his senior year with a 22-6 record, averaging a school record 28.4 points a game. The Orange barely missed averaging 100 points a game during the regular season, setting a new NCAA standard, this despite the fact that Bing was the only player who would end up in the NBA.

Bing would go on to have a Hall of Fame NBA career, and become a very successful businessman in Detroit. Bing would have further influence on the Syracuse program as he mentored a young Detroit kid named Derrick Coleman, and helped guide him to Syracuse. Bing would probably have made #1 on my list if the program had remained solid after his departure, but it dropped shortly afterwards until resurrection in the early 1970s.

The number one player on this list was Bing’s roommate at Syracuse. Jim Boeheim was a walk-on at Syracuse, eventually earning a scholarship, and teaming with Dave Bing in the backcourt. Boeheim’s impact of course, was not as a player. However, as a player he developed relationships with the school that would allow him to be the assistant basketball coach, helping to recruit for the Orange in the early 70s. When Roy Danforth stepped down, Boeheim jumped at the chance to be the head coach, and the university immediately saw dividends. Boeheim’s first recruit was Louis Orr, and the Orange rose to the #6 team in the nation in Boeheim’s rookie year. Thirty two seasons later, Boeheim has 771 wins, 3 Final Fours, 1 National Championship, 25 NCAA bids, 6 NIT bids, 5 Big East Championships, 13 appearances in the Big East Finals and 300 Big East wins. Boeheim took Syracuse to the national level, gaining tremendous exposure. He’s consistently recruited top players, had a keen eye for finding the great unknown players, and developed a reputation as the best zone defense coach in the country. The impact of Jim Boeheim on the program is undeniable, and Syracuse fans have been blessed that he has always considered Syracuse his dream job.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Orange Basketball Schedule - One Man's Preference

If I were czar of Men’s NCAA basketball day, and I could make changes that would be irreversible, one of things I would address is setting up the basketball schedule for the Syracuse Orange. I am going to assume 30 games as the regular season schedule.

There are three things I would want to accomplish with my schedule. First, playing a schedule that would be rich in tradition for Syracuse and its fans. Second, playing teams that geographically will help the Orange in recruiting on an ongoing basis. Third, playing teams that routinely would help Syracuse with the ever-so-popular RPI. And fourth, playing teams that would permanently prevent the media from hyping how ‘Syracuse never leaves New York state’.

As I mentioned several months back, I have no problem with Syracuse playing the in-state teams. In fact, I think there is an obligation of sorts. Keep in mind that the national media carries a bias. They want to have games between big name teams on every night of the season, from the very first tip off through the national championship. It builds for better ratings, and frankly, it makes the job easier for the ‘talking heads’ as there are fewer teams they have to truly study up on. But I digress.

As NCAA czar, I am not going to kick any teams out of the Big East conference. I think those types of actions are bush league. All teams contribute, all deserve to belong. However, a balanced schedule of any format is not really possible with 16 teams, not if you want any type of non-conference schedule. So I’m setting Syracuse up with a 20 game conference schedule, where they will play five teams twice a year, and the other ten teams once each season. I am not going to rotate this schedule; it would be permanent. So every season, Syracuse would have the same five teams for home-and-home, and they would alternate the home/away with the other ten.

The five home-and-home teams are Georgetown, Pittsburgh, St. Johns, UConn, and Villanova. The Hoyas and Huskies are hated rivals, and Syracuse has to play them at home each season. Enough said there. Syracuse needs to play at least one game a year in Madison Square Garden during the regular season, so you’ve got to have a home-and-home with the Red Storm to get that. Syracuse needs one road game in Philadelphia each year, so that gives you Nova on the home and home. And Syracuse has been playing Pittsburgh since both teams started playing hoops (a total of 96 times with the Orange holding a 61-35 lead over Pitt to date). Plus exposure in Western Pennsylvania helps with the Midwest.

That leaves one game a year with Notre Dame, Providence, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, South Florida, and West Virginia. Notre Dame and WVU are the only two I briefly considered for home-and-home, but I could find no reason for one of them over the other five. This brings Syracuse up to 20 games.

I would have the Orange play in one pre-season tournament each year, with a guaranteed two games. We could rotate the preseason NIT, Great Alaska Shootout, Maui Invitational and Coaches vs. Cancer. If the Orange did well, they may pick up an additional two or three games, but the two guaranteed are what matter. So we’re at 22 games.

I would schedule one game a season against both Colgate and Cornell. Colgate and Syracuse used to have a bitter rivalry with many close games, and they have met each other 160 times. The Orange have had the upper hand for 40+ years now, and hold a 115-45 lead. If you’re going to have some easy games (and you are), they might as well mean something. Same with Cornell. Syracuse and Cornell have a long series with 115 games, Syracuse leading 84-31, and there was even some fighting during the Derrick Coleman era. So we’re at 24 games.

I’d have two more games each year against two of the following four teams: Niagara, Canisius, St. Bonaventure and Buffalo. If Syracuse wants to throw in Albany, Binghamton, and other New York schools, I’m not going to argue it. I just want two more New York schools into the preseason schedule. Niagara with 81 games and Canisius with 67 are the most common opponents of Syracuse, but any would do. That gets us to 26 games.

I’d have Syracuse play one of the following three Big 10 teams each season: Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan. I think Ohio State and Michigan bring a consistently competitive program and the opportunity to get exposure in Ohio and Michigan that could help Syracuse. Penn State is a long time rivalry that should be restarted in some format, though I’m not willing to commit to it on a regular basis, particularly since it helps Penn State far more than Syracuse. But Penn State is Big 10, so this rotation of three gives Syracuse a non-conference Big 10 game.

I would rotate playing Southern California (USC) and UCLA. A road trip to Los Angeles every other season would not be too trying on the Orange, and it would help revitalize a dormant West Coast pipeline (that current assistant Mike Hopkins should be able to take advantage of). Plus it gives the Orange a Pac 10 game. That gets us to 28 games.

The last two games I would have permanently on the schedule as a rotating home/away series. I would want Boston College on the schedule every year. They used to be a great rivalry for the Orange, and it’s time to bury the hatchet from the ACC defection. Plus the BC game now counts as a non-conference games against a big name conference. The second game would be having Maryland on the schedule every season. It’s hard to believe that Syracuse has only played the Terrapins seven times. Maryland is in a hot bed of Syracuse recruiting for the past 25 years, and it is such a logical team for the Orange to play (honestly, Maryland should have been a Big East school many years back... it would’ve helped football and basketball). Plus Maryland is an ACC team, so that helps the non-conference schedule.

So there’s my schedule. You end up with 20 Big East Conference games, 2 ACC games, 1 Big 10 game, 1 Pac 10 game, and four second tier New York State teams. Plus you get two more games in a preseason tournament which will garner more exposure, and with a little success in those tournaments get you games against other top flight teams. With the exception of the years the Penn State gets into the rotation, you have 4 games against solid major college schools each non-conference season (not counting those tournament games). There are no games against the so-called mid-majors… Syracuse won’t get burned by any of them having a bad season, or by any of them pulling the upset.

I would have liked to have had a rotation with the other four Big 5 schools of Philadelphia (Drexel, St. Josephs, Temple and LaSalle); and I would have liked one game against the MAC. But the bloated Big East took up my remaining slots, and I was not going to drop a Big East team.

The weakness in my schedule is that it will force the Orange to leave the Dome for a few non-conference games, which will hurt the financial status of the program. The four games against the major conference teams would all be home/away series, so two of those games each season would be away instead of home. The four NY state games would be home… so Syracuse would get six home games, and four road games in its non-conference schedule each year. I know coach Jim Boeheim would prefer more of a 8-2 ratio there, and so would I, but in order to rotate the major conference teams, the Orange are going to have to play some games on the road.
To recap, the games would be:


  • Colgate (home)
  • Cornell (home)
  • Rotation of first of Niagara, Canisius, Buffalo, St. Bonaventure (home)
  • Rotation of second of Niagara, Canisius, Buffalo, St. Bonaventure (home)
  • Maryland: ACC (alternating home/away)
  • Boston College: ACC (alternating home/away)
  • Rotation of Big 10: Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State (alternating home/away)
  • Rotation of Pac 10: UCLA, USC (alternating home/away)
  • Pre-season tourney game #1
  • Pre-season tourney game #2

Conference Games

  • Georgetown (home)
  • Georgetown (away)
  • UConn (home)
  • UConn (away)
  • Pitt (home)
  • Pitt (away)
  • St. Johns (home)
  • St. Johns (away)
  • Villanova (home)
  • Villanova (away)
  • West Virginia (alternating home/away)
  • Rutgers (alternating home/away)
  • Seton Hall (alternating home/away)
  • Providence (alternating home/away)
  • Notre Dame (alternating home/away)
  • Marquette (alternating home/away)
  • DePaul (alternating home/away)
  • Louisville (alternating home/away)
  • Cincinnati (alternating home/away)
  • South Florida (alternating home/away)