Jim Boeheim won his fourth Big East Coach of the Year award. He won his first in 1984, twenty six years ago. This is a well earned award this year, as the Orange were not ranked in the preseason top 25, and predicted to finish 6th in the Big East. Instead, the Orange, with no players recruited in the top 50 of their class, rose to #1 in the national rankings, and won the Big East title outright with a two game lead. There were some other coaches with outstanding efforts this year, but this selection was really a no-brainer.
Wesley Johnson was more of the surprise as Player of the Year. Many Syracuse fans, myself included, had assumed that since Scottie Reynolds had been the front runner most the season and was the only unanimous player on the All Big East First Team, that he was going to win the award. That is one advantage of having coaches vote, as opposed to sportswriters. The coaches are less impressed by statistics, and more impressed by what they have seen on the court. That does not mean they always get it right, in my opinion. But this year I think they did. As I had mentioned the other day, Johnson’s team focus, at the expense of his own statistics was a major key in the Orange having an outstanding regular season.
I do have to agree with other fans and bloggers, including Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, that I thought Andy Rautins was the MVP of this team. Though we do have to keep in mind that Player of the Year is not the same as Most Valuable Player. There is a subtle difference.
Johnson is the fourth Syracuse player to win the Big East Player of the Year. Derrick Coleman was the first in 1990 guiding the Orangemen to a 26-7 record, 12-4 in the Big East. D.C. averaged 17.9 ppg, 12.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists a game that year, and shot 55% from the floor.
Billy Owens gave the Orangemen back-to-back Player of the Year recognitions earning the award in 1991. Owens carried the Orangemen most of the season to a 26-6 record, 12-4 in the Big East including the Big East Regular Season Championship. He averaged 23.2 ppg, 11.6 rpg and 3.5 rpg. If not for a terrible post season by the team (0-2), Owens’s season may have been remembered as one of the greatest individual seasons ever for an Orangeman.
Syracuse would have to wait another 14 years before an Orangeman won the Player of the Year. Hakim Warrick earned the recognition in 2005 leading the Orangemen to 27-7 overall, 11-5 in the Big East. Warrick averaged 21.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, and 1.5 assists on 54.8% shooting.
Johnson’s resume isn’t done yet for this year. But he has helped lead the Orangemen to a 28-3 overall record, 15-3 in conference and a Big East Regular Season Title. He is averaging 15.3 pp, 8.5 assists and 2.4 assists while shooting 38% from three point range and 79% from the free throw line. His scoring numbers are not overly impressive, but he is on one of the most balanced scoring successful teams in league history with seven players averaging 8.3 ppg or more.
At first glance it seems hard to believe that Carmelo Anthony did not win the award in 2003. He averaged 22.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg, and 2.2 apg, while leading the Orangemen to a 30-5 record, 13-3 in the Big East for a share of the division title, and oh yeah, a National Championship. Of course, the National Championship wasn’t relevant at the time the award came out, and Troy Bell had an outstanding season for Boston College which also won its division in the Big East.
I always thought Sherman Douglas should have won the award in 1989 when the Orangemen went 30-8 overall and 10-6 in league play. Douglas averaged 18.2 ppg, 8.6 apg and had 2.5 rpg. He was what ran Syracuse’s high powered offense. Georgetown did win the Big East Regular Season that year, and that does count for something, but at the time (and even now), I don’t see how the Hoyas’ Charles Smith was the better player or had the better season. A couple of guys named Mutombo and Mourning also contributed to the success of that team.
Pearl Washington should have won the award in 1986. He lead the Orangemen to a 26-6 overall mark, 14-2 in Big East play and won the Big East Regular Season title. I know St. John’s Walter Berry had an impressive year, but Washington was the most exciting player in the league, led the Orangemen to the best record, averaged 17.3 ppg and 7.8 apg, outstanding numbers for a point guard.
The other great single season for an Orangeman in the past twenty years was John Wallace in 1995-1996. Wallace carried the Orangemen all season with 22.2 ppg and 8.7 rpg, leading the Orangemen to a 29-9 record, 12-6 in the Big East, and to the National Championship game. But the Orangemen were not a great team during the regular season, merely very good, and UConn was dominant with the great Ray Allen, who would win the award. Sometimes, its just a matter of who your competition is.