Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Syracuse All Decade Team 2000-2009

By now most Syracuse fans are aware that Jonny Flynn is going to bypass his final two years of college eligibility to go for the money and fame of the NBA. I am not going to comment in length on Flynn’s decision. As a fan I wish he would stay; next year’s team with Flynn would clearly be better than next year’s team without him. I think Flynn also has a lot of room to improve at the college game; he played the point position very well down the stretch this season, but I would like to have seen him play that way for a season and raise his game another notch. However, he is staring at the opportunity to earn millions, he is reportedly getting props by the likes of LeBron James (per the Axeman), and the NBA is the opportunity to play against the best. And the only reason Flynn came to college was to go to the NBA, so when that opportunity is there, I cannot blame him for taking it.

Flynn leaves Syracuse as probably the third best point guard in the Jim Boeheim era. The top two are clearly Pearl Washington and Sherman Douglas, in some order. Flynn comes in ahead of guys like Red Autry, Gerry McNamara, Jason Hart , Lazarus Sims and Eddie Moss.

Anyways, the decade from 2000-2009 has ended, and I have been compiling ‘All Decade’ Teams for every decade of Syracuse basketball, along with a player of the decade for each decade. [Note: for purposes of determining best player of a decade, I restrict consideration to only their activity during that decade. I realize this is unfair to the players who cross over two decades, but such as it is].

Most decades have been easy. The 1900s had Art Powell, the 1910s Joe Schwarzer, the 1920s Vic Hanson, the 1930s Ed Sonderman, the 1940s Billy Gabor, the 1950s Vinnie Cohen, and the 1960s Dave Bing.

The choices got more difficult starting with the 1970s. I narrowed it down to Rudy Hackett, Roosevelt Bouie, Louis Orr, and Dennis DuVal. DuVal was an electrifying and outstanding player, and Hackett led Syracuse to its first Final Four, but both of their impact was dwarfed by the dominance of the Bouie ‘N Louie era. So the choice came down to Louis Orr and Roosevelt Bouie. Considering the defensive dominance of Bouie that allowed a young Jim Boeheim to anchor a team around, I had to go with Roosevelt Bouie for the 1970s.

The 1980s was the best decade of Syracuse basketball, and as such there were some dominant players to select from. The top three were clearly Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman and Sherman Douglas. Coleman was the best player of the three, but his senior season was in the 1990s, and so we’re comparing his first three seasons to the three years of Washington and four of Douglas. I think the point guard duo have an edge as a result. It then comes down to Washington and Douglas. I think Douglas was the better point guard, and the guy I want running my team. But the Pearl was an outstanding point guard himself, and a one-man press breaking machine. Honestly, I would not argue with anyone who chose opposite to me on this, but in the end I took the Pearl because of his impact on the program.

The 1990s had three outstanding players: Billy Owens, Lawrence Moten and John Wallace. Owens was the best player of the three, but Syracuse had only two seasons of him in the 1990s, and Owens has to be downgraded somewhat for his failure to win a Big East game or NCAA tournament game his last season at Syracuse. I mean, that’s half the seasons he had in the 1990s. Moten and Wallace were both four year men. Moten was the better four year player; he was a much better player than Wallace was as a freshman and sophomore. And I had written a while back that Moten’s significance in the 90s cannot be understated… he came to the program at the time of the probation period, and helped Syracuse be a winner despite the NCAA penalties, and the program kept going as a result. Moten is one of my all time favorite Syracuse players, but I gave John Wallace the nod as the top player of the 90s. He was a better player as a junior and senior than Moten was those two years, and Wallace carried the team to the NCAA Championship game his senior season.

As tough as I found the last three decades to be for selections, I found this past decade (2000-2009) to be the toughest. One of the difficulties is the presence of Carmelo Anthony, who played only one year, but clearly had the best single season of the decade and led Syracuse to its first NCAA Tournament Championship. Then you have Hak & Mac attack with Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara, and the ironman Jonny Flynn.

First, I will be quite clear that I have a tough time naming any player the greatest career player, or player of a decade, when his contribution to the school was only one season. That pretty much makes it very difficult for me to select Anthony. Yes, Anthony had the best single season, and he did win a National Championship. But Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara both also won a National Championship, in which both were significant impact players (remember ‘the block’ and ‘six threes’?).

Consider that Warrick scored over 2000 points during the decade, was the team’s leading rebounder for the decade, played in three NCAA tournaments, won a Big East Championship his senior season, and was named the Big East Player of the Year his Senior year, and all Big East first team two times.

Gerry McNamara led the school in scoring and assists for the decade, played in four NCAA tournaments (the only Orangeman to do that in the 2000s), won two Big East tournaments (including perhaps the gutsiest four series effort by a player in the history of that tournament). GMac was of course a fan favorite.

And recently we have all had the pleasure of watching Jonny Flynn and his ironman efforts on the court, and his own heroic Big East tournament efforts this season.

Gerry McNamara came away with the most hardware for the decade, but the other three were better players. Flynn was fun to watch the last two years, but Warrick and Anthony were better. So it comes down to Anthony and Warrick. Warrick was Anthony’s wingman in 2003. But as I mentioned earlier, Anthony only played one year, and he won a National Title (but so did Warrick). Anthony never won a Big East title, and he was never the Big East Player of the Year (I know that politics played into that, but nevertheless it is a fact). If Warrick had played two years and Anthony one, I could go with Anthony. But Warrick played four years; Anthony only one. Warrick had impact on 40% of the decade, Anthony only 10%. Warrick played in 3 NCAA tournaments, Anthony one. Warrick won a Big East Title, Anthony none. Warrick was on the Big East First team 2x, Anthony only once. Warrick was the Big East Player of the Year, Anthony never won that distinction.

We could play the ‘yeah, but’ game with Anthony. If Anthony had stayed four years, he likely would’ve bettered all of Warrick’s accomplishments. But Anthony made a choice to leave Syracuse and go pro; Warrick chose to stay four years. I am not going to make a decision based on what could have happened, but instead on what actually did happen. And based on that, I choose Mr. Warrick.

As for the All Decade team, that a bit easier. I came down to a backcourt of Jonny Flynn and Gerry McNamara, and a front court of Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick and Arinze Onuaku. I would have a three man bench, and this bench would help the Orange shoot the lights out: Preston Shumpert, Eric Devendorf, and Demetris Nichols. Of course, the coach of the decade would be the only coach this decade, Jim Boehim.

Agree or disagree with the Player of the Decade decision? I’ve set up a ranking on Rankopedia for you to make your own vote. And if you want to comment on any of the previous decade selections, feel free to leave me a comment.

It’s a long time until next fall, but I’ll be here every week or so with more comments on the Orange of past and present.


the syracusan said...

If the argument is based purely on statistics, then it's hard to argue with your conclusions for the all 2000's team. However, if we consider more intangible factors, and if we consider overall team success as compared to individual numbers, then I would take Josh Pace on the bench over Eric Devendorf. If Devo changes his mind and plays one more season, then perhaps not. But for now the tremendous 3 years of success Pace's teams enjoyed in his Sophomore, Junior, and Senior seasons outweigh Devo's one-dimensional scoring and largely unsuccessful post-season runs.

Also: if you are starting the decade in 2000 instead of 2001 then you can count Damone Brown's final two seasons as part of this decade. I might vote for him over Arinze at this point. But if Arinze has a strong senior season next year, then he locks it up.

Anonymous said...

You're an idiot! Warrick over GMAC? I dont even want debte this with you. The people of Syracuse and Scranton should punch your teeth in. Other than that it was a very well written piece and I agree with a lot of it. Warrick? really? You're an idiot!

Anonymous said...

Jonny Flynn certainly deserves to land on this All-Decade squad and he has proved ready for the next level.
Check out this Dime Magazine Video Draft Diary with Jonny.