SYRACUSE, N.Y. — With his wife, Juli, looking on at the postgame press conference and his young children close by, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s final remarks were not about his milestone 900th career victory.
Instead, he was thinking about two 6-year-old boys who were buried Monday, victims along with 18 other children and six adults in a shooting massacre last week at an elementary school in Connecticut.
“If we cannot get the people who represent us to do something about firearms, we are a sad, sad society,” Boeheim said Monday night. “If one person in this world, the NRA president, anybody, can tell me why we need assault weapons with 30 shots — this is our fault if we don’t go out there and do something about this. If we can’t get this thing done, I don’t know what kind of country we have.”
It was a sobering end to what was a memorable evening for Syracuse basketball. The third-ranked Orange’s 72-68 victory over Detroit in the Gotham Classic made Boeheim just the third Division I men’s coach to reach 900 wins.
Boeheim, 68 and in his 37th year at his alma mater, is 900-304 and joined an elite fraternity. Mike Krzyzewski (936) and Bob Knight (902) are the only other men’s Division I coaches to win that many games.
“To me, it’s just a number,” said Boeheim, whose first victory was against Harvard in 1976. “If I get 900, have I got to get more? That’s why maybe it’s just not that important to me because to me it’s just a number, and the only number that matters is how this team does.”
So far, it’s done OK.
James Southerland had 22 points for Syracuse (10-0), which increased its home winning streak to 30 games, longest in the nation. Detroit (6-5), which lost 77-74 at St. John’s in the second game of the season and 74-61 at Pitt earlier this month, had its four-game winning streak snapped.
Bing was standing tall in the locker room after the game.
“Nobody would have thought when we came here 50 years ago that either one of us would have had the kind of success we’ve had,” said Bing, today the mayor of Detroit. “I’m so pleased and proud of him because he stuck with it. He’s proven that he’s one of the best coaches ever in college basketball, and he’ll be No. 2 shortly.”
After a victory that nearly was short-circuited, Boeheim was presented a jersey encased in glass with 900 emblazoned on it.
“I’m happy. I’ve stayed around long enough. I was a little nervous,” Boeheim said at center court. “I’m proud to be here. To win this game is more pressure than I’ve felt in a long time. I wasn’t thinking about losing until the end. That wouldn’t have been a good thing to happen, but it very well could have.”
Midway through the second half with Syracuse dominating, fans were given placards featuring cardboard cutouts of Boeheim’s face with 900 wins printed on the back to wave in celebration. But when the public address announcer in the Carrier Dome invited fans to stick around for the postgame ceremony, the Titans roared back.