Under the 33-year reign of head coach Jim Boeheim, the Syracuse men’s basketball team has rained Ws on its opponents, winning eight Big East titles and racking up 25 NCAA tournament appearances. The Hall-of-Fame coach’s formula for dominance is grounded in supreme talent. Learn how he recruits so you can perhaps get a slice of Orange success.
STACK: What distinguishes the basketball recruiting process?
Boeheim: There’s more visibility; you see more kids because of the nature of the recruiting process. There [are] places in the summertime where all the players come together at AAU tournaments, so you get to see pretty much the best players in the country when they’re sophomores [and] juniors.
STACK: When evaluating athletes on the court, what specifically do you look for?
Boeheim: Obviously talent’s very important, but the attitude the player has, how he relates to his teammates and his coach, how he is in tough situations when things aren’t going that well— character’s so important.
STACK: Can you elaborate on attitude and character?
Boeheim: You look at kids who want to be good students, who will do the work, who want to go to class, who care about getting an education. More and more, kids just want to play basketball [and] go to the NBA. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if they’re going to go to college, they’ve got to think about [getting] an education. That’s very important, and also how you fit in with your teammates. What kind of a teammate are you? I think that’s very crucial to having a successful college basketball team—players who can play together, who get along together, who are willing to sacrifice a little bit to help the team, which in the long run will help [the individual player] as well. As a college coach, you’re looking for talent and attitude, and you want to try to get both together.
STACK: How important are speed, agility and quickness on the court?
Boeheim: You always have to have talent. It might be you’re a great ball handler, you’re a great shooter, you’re strong, you’re physical, you’re a good rebounder—sometimes you get a combination of those things—but talent’s always going to be important when it comes to being a college basketball player.
STACK: How important is height?
Boeheim: I think size is important, but there’s room in our game for six-footers, 6’2” guys and undersized centers. Size isn’t the only thing. It’s important, but it’s not the determining factor of [being] a good college player.
STACK: What words of encouragement can you give athletes who are under the radar?
Boeheim: A lot of guys come from under the radar. I remember seeing Hakim Warrick. Nobody was recruiting him the summer going into his senior year. [He was] big; he [was] skinny—he weighed about a hundred pounds. But, [he was] 6’9,” so we started to recruit him. [He] came to Syracuse, made All-American and now has been playing in the NBA for [three] years.