Syracuse coach keeps focus in tumultuous season

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They know what they think of the Orange, though. Syracuse has had the four largest on-campus crowds in the nation and the Carrier Dome box office has extended its hours because of surging sales. Murray State at 19-0 is the only other unbeaten team in Division I.

In November, with the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal at Penn State still in the headlines, CBS Sports columnist Gregg Doyel said Syracuse should fire Boeheim, who took over at his alma mater in 1976. Doyel is now calling him the national coach of the year.

“Thank God they’ve had such a great season,” Satalin said. “I think he’s been able to keep his focus on that. I don’t think there’s any question that that’s taken the focus off of a lot of different things. People are looking at this as the possibility of being a really special year.

“I can’t imagine if they were 10-10 or something. The feeling would probably be a lot different.”

Boeheim told his players before the season that they had the pedigree of a national champion.

The team doesn’t have a likely NBA lottery pick on the roster and only three players are scoring in double figures, none averaging better than 13.7 points.

“He’s been terrific,” senior forward Kris Joseph said. “He did a great job of keeping us levelheaded and it was probably even harder for him to do that for himself with everything going on and all the adversity that he’s faced off the court. He did a great job of not letting it get to him as far as making sure this team was supposed to do what they were supposed to do.

“He let us know that we’re not going to let this affect our season,” Joseph said. “He did a great job of making sure that never happened. He kept us together as a team and we won basketball games.”

Added fifth-year senior Scoop Jardine: “This year, he’s just a little more focused on our team. The way he’s handled it has really made us handle our situation better. He’s always been a great leader for us.”

Those who know Boeheim best aren’t surprised.

“He has turned all the attention, as well I knew he would, knowing Jim, into his basketball team,” Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. “Quite frankly, for a lot of coaches, myself included, the rest that you get from the storm outside is right in that gym working with the kids.”

Fans can only marvel at what they see on the court: a rotation of 10 players, and _ unlike the bickering on Boeheim’s only national championship team in 2003 _ not a single frown.

“He’s got my vote for national coach of the year right now,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “Obviously, there was off-the-court stuff, but away from that, he has managed a lot of guys that want to play more than they’re playing. He’s done a fabulous job getting everybody involved and having them buy into winning and chasing a team goal. In this era, it is really a challenge to do that.”

At the Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub in downtown Syracuse, fan Sharon Bowes said Boeheim has been doing “the best job he’s ever done.”

“It’s the most unselfish team I’ve seen. That’s what makes champions,” Bowes said.

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