Monday, September 9, 2013

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter celebrates as cornerback Brandon Reddish (4) and the rest of the Syracuse defense look on. Colter rushed for 102 yards to go along with 116 through the air.
Courtesy of Susan Du/The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter celebrates as cornerback Brandon Reddish (4) and the rest of the Syracuse defense look on. Colter rushed for 102 yards to go along with 116 through the air.

CATASTROPHE: Syracuse unable to slow Northwestern offense in rout

EVANSTON, Ill. — It was as if Kain Colter and Brandon Reddish were stuck together by Elmer’s glue.

Neither budged. Neither mustered up extra juice as the Northwestern quarterback and Syracuse cornerback fused into one blob less than six inches away from the goal line.

But Colter improvised and outwitted the Syracuse defense, as he did all game. He simply stuck the ball past Reddish’s left ear and into the end zone. Touchdown, Northwestern.

The Wildcat offense toyed with and out-crafted the Orange defense all night, propelling No. 19 Northwestern (2-0) to a 48-27 win over Syracuse (0-2) at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill., on Saturday in front of 38,033. Colter and Trevor Siemian provided a dynamic one-two quarterback punch that the Orange defense couldn’t handle. Even playing without running back Venric Mark, the Wildcats athletes torched SU all night long.

“Just a tough night,” Syracuse defensive tackle Jay Bromley said.

That brilliant goal-line maneuver by Colter upped Northwestern’s lead to 27-7 with 2:38 left in the first half. After scrambling more than 15 yards and weaving through Syracuse defenders like they were stuck in sand, Colter simply did what he had to do to score.

He made the right play. Just like he did all night, and just like his entire team did.

Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer said the one thing Syracuse couldn’t afford to do was give Northwestern opportunities.

“And we damn well did,” he said.

The beatdown started in the first 51 seconds of the game. Four plays, four completions. Two catches, a facemask penalty and two more catches. All in less than a minute.

And the bleeding didn’t stop there. Siemian came in and bumped the lead to 17-0 just 2:22 into the second quarter. After throwing three passes in a row to Tony Jones for 47 total yards, Siemian delivered a 20-yard strike to Dan Vitale for a touchdown. The rout was on, and it was just beginning.

Anyone who tried to contain Jones failed miserably. Keon Lyn and Reddish both slotted up against him, and both got burned. Jones finished with nine receptions for 185 yards and a touchdown.

A week after Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson laid down a beating on the Syracuse defense, Jones followed suit.

And on the rare instance that the defense had Jones locked up downfield, Colter made plays with his feet.

With Northwestern leading 20-7, SU linebackers Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch pursued Colter in the backfield. A sack seemed inevitable, but Colter escaped once again.

He danced his way through the defense for a 33-yard gain before Bromley eventually wrapped him up.

“He’s as advertised,” Bromley said. “He’s a mobile quarterback. He’s elusive, and he’s a hard guy to tackle.”

And then there was Siemian – the more polished thrower of the two. His touchdown pass to Christian Jones with two seconds left in the first half essentially iced the game.

There was no way Syracuse was coming back from a 34-7 halftime deficit — not the way Colter and Siemian were playing. Not the way the Syracuse defense was visibly exhausted in the second quarter.
Syracuse’s secondary looked winded. The Orange had taken a good, old-fashioned whooping.

“Everyone’s going to point at the quarterback position,” Shafer said, “but goddamn it, it was both sides of the ball.”

NU’s numbers speak for themselves: 270 passing yards, 6-for-6 in the red zone, 22-of-24 passes completed — all in the first half.

Compare that to 119 passing yards for Syracuse, only one trip to the red zone, and SU’s seven incompletions and the glaring gap on the scoreboard doesn’t sound so unfathomable.

“They’re just good,” Syracuse defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said.

In fact, Northwestern was so good that Shafer told his team at the break to come out and win the second half — not the game, but merely the final 30 minutes.

Syracuse did, but it still lost the game.

The frame was merely a formality. Colter, Siemian and Jones had wreaked all the havoc they needed to wreak. The damage was done, and so were Syracuse’s hopes at an upset.

Colter finished with 87 rushing yards and 116 passing yards while Siemian threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns. It was a golden combination – one that’s been talked about for Syracuse, but one
Shafer hasn’t implemented quite yet.

That combination sent Syracuse packing halfway across the country with a 0-2 record.

Said Shafer: “We played a poor football game.”

Thursday, August 29, 2013

True grit: Shafer implements ‘hard-nosed’ culture at Syracuse in 1st year as head coach in ACC

Three yards and a cloud of dust. That’s the way Syracuse starts every practice.

The offense tries to move the ball three yards in three downs while the defense vehemently tries to impede its progress. The winner revels in the glory while the loser is punished with up-downs.

It’s a drill that first-year head coach Scott Shafer learned from legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes while growing up in Northeast Ohio. When Shafer played quarterback for his father, Ron, at Riverside High School in Painesville, the practice fields were all mud, dirt and dust.

Shafer knew that when he became a head coach – a job he’s wanted since before college – he’d make sure his team used three yards and a cloud of dust.

“It’s a frickin’ war,” Shafer said.

The drill epitomizes the brand of football Shafer wants his team to play in its first year in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Orange will rely on “hard-nosed” football – as Shafer has dubbed it – to succeed. It’s a phrase he has uttered frequently in his first eight months as head coach, while mastering his already adept visor toss and assembling a crew of assistant coaches equally fiery and focused.

Syracuse doesn’t have the raw talent that teams like No. 8 Clemson and No. 11 Florida State possess, but Shafer hopes intensity, relentlessness and toughness will be enough to compete. He expects passion to emanate from every drill, every workout and every game.

“We may not be as big, we may not be as fast,” Shafer said, “but doggonit, we want to play a style of football where we’re knocking the hell out of people and playing a hard-nosed game.”

Defensive line coach Tim Daoust knows all about hard-nosed football. He’s known Shafer for 12 years and believes in his relentless approach. That’s why Daoust unremittingly yells at his players – he feels the intensity will prepare them for the regular season. It’s why he lost his voice just three days into training camp.

During an Aug. 20 practice, the defense jumped offsides during a live-game simulation of a field goal. Shafer lost it.

He threw his trademark white, wide-brimmed visor on the ground in disgust. Those nuances and “controlling the controllables,” as Shafer puts it, are what he believes will determine the team’s success.

Daoust said the visor toss isn’t a new element in Shafer’s repertoire.

When Shafer was a defensive coordinator at Western Michigan, his players even made a compilation video of his best visor tosses.

“The county fair’s this week, right?” Daoust said, completely straight-faced. “We could take him to the fair and he could knock down those little milk pints or whatever they are.”

Much like Daoust, offensive line coach Pat Perles rarely lets his players off the hook. If they make a mistake, they’re always held accountable.

“F*ck you guys,” he yelled to his linemen moments after completing a Shafer-esque hat chuck. They stopped pushing forward into the cushiony orange mats before Perles deemed the drill finished.

Syracuse center Macky MacPherson detailed one drill during which Perles has his players grab 35-pound sand bags, squat and shuffle their feet. Five reps. Twenty seconds per rep. Shafer said games are won in the trenches. Drills like those showcase the hard-nosed mentality he’s tried to infuse into the Orange’s culture.

“It’s not just a gimmick,” MacPherson said. “It’s something Coach Shafer really does believe in.”

Shafer’s wife, Missy, said she hears the phrase all the time: “Don’t you change.”

The Shafers still live in the same house despite Shafer’s promotion. Missy Shafer still shops at Wegmans with a baseball hat, no makeup and a mismatched shirt and shorts.

Just because the team lost a crop of stellar seniors – including star quarterback Ryan Nassib –doesn’t mean it has to change its ways. The approach is unwavering. Do what’s gotten you this far and you’ll be fine.

So they won’t alter too much. But the question remains whether staying the same and being mentally and physically tough will be enough.

The team has bought in. MacPherson described the Orange as an “intense, ground-and-pound, we’re-gonna-impose-our-will-on-you kind of team.”

“#Hard-nosed,” MacPherson said. “It’s nose to the grindstone, blue collar, anything you can possibly imagine. Outwork your opponent and beat him down while you do it.”

It’s no secret. ACC teams are faster, stronger and certainly more skilled from top to bottom than Big East teams. Shafer knows Syracuse is in for a tall task. Doug Marrone’s departure to the Buffalo Bills in January left unanswered questions, and made the conference switch even more daunting.

The Orange is the underdog. But Assistant Athletics Director for Athletic Performance Will Hicks said that’s just fine.

“I think Coach Shafe embraces being the underdog a little bit,” Hicks said. “It gets him fired up.”

That’s who he is. Praise from his players, assistant coaches and wife is consistent. The 46-year-old Shafer’s fusion of passion and compassion is showcased in everything he does, and that blend seems to have permeated throughout the entire team.

One of the staples of Shafer’s approach is that he always holds people accountable and never lets them feel sorry for themselves. When Missy Shafer was diagnosed with malignant melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – while the family lived in Michigan more than four years ago, Shafer told her not to feel sorry for herself. He supported her and helped her, never letting her give up.

“This is unfortunate, it’s tough, but it’s life,” Missy Shafer said. “It’s how you handle it and how you get through it.”

And she did. After getting surgery at one of the premier melanoma-treating hospitals in the country, the cancer was history.

Ups and downs will come in the ACC – just like they did in Missy’s case and in the Big East. It’s a matter of staying resolute and bouncing back.

Shafer took training camp as an opportunity to see how players responded to adversity. He said he was most proud of the team last season, when it dug itself out of a 2-4 start to finish 8-5 by not changing its approach and continuing to plow forward with determination.

Change is the only constant in Syracuse, but Shafer said his team is up for the challenge. He’s not concerned that SU was picked sixth out of seven in its division. He’s more preoccupied with ensuring the Orange finishes on top, despite the seemingly infinite mountain ahead.

“It’s a challenge that we relish,” Shafer said. “We’re not afraid of anybody at Syracuse. Never have been.”

Never back down. Put in the effort and control the controllables by playing hard-nosed football. The rest will work itself out.

“He wants things to be done the right way,” Hicks said, “but it’s all in a positive approach. He’s not going to accept things not being right. There’s no gray.”

Defensive tackle Jay Bromley laughed when asked how many times Shafer says the phrase “hard-nosed” in a typical practice.

“Hard-nosed,” Bromley said, scratching his chin. “Hard-nosed. Anywhere between five,” Bromley paused and laughed again, “and 20. It depends on how we’re playing.”

Bromley said Shafer has to yell at both the offense and defense now, which means he’s shouting “hard-nosed” twice as much as he did as Syracuse’s defensive coordinator.

Even the team meetings are more intense, running back Jerome Smith said, with Shafer at the helm.

“His press conference made someone want to go out and play for him right now,” Smith said. “He has everybody fired up.”

The team believes in Shafer’s approach. Syracuse is confident it can shock some teams. The Orange opens the season against Penn State and No. 22 Northwestern. It faces national title contender Clemson just three games later.

That doesn’t faze Bromley, though. He said confidence is soaring and the players truly believe they can leave a dent in the conference. When asked about his realistic goal for the season, Bromley said he wanted Syracuse to win the ACC championship.

It sounds farfetched to an outsider, but those inside the bubble are starting to believe in Shafer’s ways. Maybe they can shock the world.

If Syracuse finds itself in a third-and-goal situation with the ball on the three in the game’s waning minutes, Shafer hopes both the offense and defense will know exactly what to do.

Finish how they start every practice – three yards and a cloud of dust.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Boker meets idol Casspi

Shai Boker had dreamed of hanging out with his favorite athlete, Omri Casspi, for years.

His room is filled with Casspi paraphernalia, from an Israeli national team jersey to a rookie card. As a diehard fan, Boker peruses Casspi’s fan page frequently. One day, he found something that caught his eye.

Casspi was running a basketball camp at Gann Academy in Waltham in early July. Boker, 18, knew working there was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up, so he and his family emailed Casspi’s partner Tamir Goodman looking to see if Shai could be an assistant coach.

He got it.

Boker attended Casspi’s camp, called Omri Casspi Basketball Camp in Partnership with Tamir Goodman, from July 7-11. He was an assistant coach for younger players in the morning and a camper in the afternoon. The Lexington resident Boker honed his teaching ability and basketball skills, all while spending quality time with the player he’s admired for years.

“Meeting him is basically a dream come true,” Boker said. “He’s my favorite player and I know so much about him.”

Boker remembers Casspi’s first NBA game vividly. He knew Casspi scored 15 points in a 102-89 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder back in 2009. 

The two chatted for hours during the weeklong camp – Boker sharing his favorite Casspi moments and his idol smiling and helping his new friend live out his dream.

“It’s awesome,” Casspi said with a smile. “He knows more stats about me than I know about myself.”

One day, Boker decided to challenge Casspi to a game of H-O-R-S-E. It was a battle of sharpshooters.

Two days after the fierce competition, Casspi called Shai’s name. Boker took one last shot and dribbled over to the row of chairs where the 6-foot-9 small forward sat.

“What was the score when we played H-O-R-S-E?” Casspi asked Boker.

“H-O-R-S-E for me, nothing for you,” Boker said, laughing, turning back to the basket and launching another 3-pointer.

Boker first became a fan of Casspi’s during the 2006-07 season, far before even the most avid NBA aficionado knew the current Houston Rocket forward. They both lived in Israel, Boker in a village called Avigdor, and Casspi in a town named Yavne, just 20 minutes away.

When Casspi entered the NBA and suited up for the Sacramento Kings, basketball junkie Boker’s infatuation grew. Boker now had a chance to watch him square off against some of his other favorite teams, including the Boston Celtics.

“It’s been really phenomenal,” Boker said about watching Casspi in the NBA. “The thing I’ll remember most is his ‘posterization’ of Kobe Bryant. He got an And One.”

Boker went to a Kings-Celtics game on Jan. 11, 2011. The family brought a poster that read, “Casspi, you are the King” in Hebrew. Seeing Casspi play in person in the NBA was a start, but Boker was left wanting more.

Little did he know that was just the beginning of their relationship.

Fast forward two and a half years.

Casspi and Boker are shooting the breeze and shooting jumpers, getting to know each other and talking about Casspi’s most memorable NBA games.

“He’s a fun guy, man,” Casspi said of Boker. “I love him a lot and he helps a lot with the kids. He shows a lot of great leadership.”

Boker made sure to get his Israeli national team jersey signed, something he couldn’t do at the game. But the material objects aren’t what matter to Boker the most. It’s the friendship he built – one that he hopes will continue to grow.

Boker and Casspi pose at the courts at Gann Academy

Boker wants to work at the camp again next year. Though the plans aren't set in stone, Boker said there's a good chance he'll get to live his dream one more time. 

Said Boker: “It’s special to me because I met my favorite player who I have looked up to since he was drafted.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Despite return to NCAA tournament, Syracuse still left with mixed feelings

Published March 27, 2013 at 1:18 am
Kayla Alexander sat in Manley Field House dressed in sweaty workout clothes. She placed her water bottle down, and the game face she wore for months transformed into a giddy grin.
Just three days removed from Syracuse’s painful loss to Creighton in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Alexander was in light spirits. Her goal at the start of the season was to qualify for the tournament, and that’s exactly what the Orange did.
But something didn’t sit right. Alexander yearned for something more.
A tournament win.
“Yeah, it’s a success, but at the same time, I felt like we underachieved,” Alexander said. “I feel like if you ask any of our teammates, they’ll say that. We had too much talent.”
After winning 23 regular-season games — a school record after 29 contests — Syracuse wasn’t satisfied with just making the tournament. Alexander said the team expected to reel off three or more wins and make a deep run. Her jovial expression soured as she talked about the team’s loss. She and the rest of the Orange look back on the season with mixed emotions, relishing all they achieved but disappointed by what they failed to accomplish.
The talent became evident early in the season. The Orange ripped off two seven-game winning streaks and enclosing just one loss, blowing teams out by laughable margins and finishing down-to-the-wire games it may not have a year ago.
Head coach Quentin Hillsman had the luxury of starting three freshmen for most of the season in Brittney Sykes, Brianna Butler and Cornelia Fondren. He also had three seniors in Alexander, Elashier Hall and Carmen Tyson-Thomas, who wanted to ensure this year ended differently than the previous three.
Alexander thought hard about what it was like playing with Tyson-Thomas and Hall for four years. Moments later, her eyes lit up and she set the time machine back to 2009, when she committed to Syracuse and first met Tyson-Thomas.
Alexander noticed something peculiar about Tyson-Thomas’ eyes. They were light brown and looked a little funky. Alexander said Tyson-Thomas insisted the bizarrely tinted eyes were her natural color every time it came up in conversation. More than a year later, Alexander noticed something different about her teammate’s eyes. They were dark brown, not light, and didn’t look as mystical.
The act was up. They were colored contacts.
“I was like ‘Really, Carmen? Why would you lie about something like that?’ But that’s Carmen. Always doing stupid stuff,” Alexander said with a chuckle.
That kind of chemistry and comfort — manifested via contrasting personalities — had been in the works for three seasons. One piece of the puzzle was Alexander, a Canadian superstar who Sykes dubbed a “gentle giant.” Her classmate Hall was a sharpshooting guard who donned a new hairstyle for what seemed like every game. Finally, there was Tyson-Thomas, a rebound-obsessed and tattoo-covered swingman who led the team vocally.
Alexander said Tyson-Thomas named her Big East sixth-man trophy Carlos II. She already had a teddy bear named Carlos I, so giving the trophy the moniker Carlos II was only natural.
“Carmen does her own thing,” Alexander said. “One thing I can definitely say is that we all have different personalities. Completely different.”
After struggling to get over the hump the last three years, it was time for Syracuse’s unified core group to accomplish its previously unobtainable goal of making the NCAA tournament.
The Orange finished third in the Big East and advanced to the conference tournament semifinals before falling to Connecticut. Hillsman said he never had to ask for effort from his players. They all bought into the system from day one.
“I thought we had a tremendous season,” Hillsman said. “I think you can point to a lot of different games and say that this person stepped up and won the game for us.”
One of those wins came in Hollywood fashion against St. John’s on Jan. 23. With the game knotted at 57 and 2.8 seconds to go, Sykes stole the ball and banked in an improbable shot from beyond half court at the buzzer to give Syracuse the win.
“Just to be a freshman and to hit that shot and make history, it was pretty cool,” Sykes said. “It’s going be talked about all four years that I’m here and even when I’m gone, so it feels kind of good.”
With that win, nestled between victories over tournament-bound DePaul and Louisville, on the Orange’s resume, the goal the three seniors had coveted for four years finally materialized.
Syracuse earned a No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament and was the favorite against No. 10-seed Creighton. But the Bluejays outplayed the Orange on Saturday, causing the trio’s last hurrah to come to a screeching, stunning halt.
“When it first happened, I was in shock,” Alexander said. “I didn’t have any emotion. You go to bed, you can’t sleep. You just replay the game over and over in your head.”
Then she paused and took a deep breath.
“But now I’m — now I’m good.”


Drexel long pole hones skills playing floorball for Canada

Published March 26, 2013 at 12:51 am
Pat Root was in ninth grade when he was first exposed to floorball.
Root played hockey every Tuesday and Thursday morning in gym class. One day, his teacher decided it was time for a change. That’s when floorball made its way to St. Andrew’s in Ontario.
Little did Root know, he would go on to play for and captain the Canadian U-19 floorball team twice and compete in an international adult world championship. He helped floorball – a game with elements of ice hockey, box lacrosse and field lacrosse – gain popularity in Canada. Now, with lifelong experience playing a variety of stick sports, Root starts at long-stick midfield for Drexel.
“I think floorball has the same effects as hockey would have on playing lacrosse,” Root said. “The idea of having the stick in the hand and that motor skill is all the same throughout those three sports.”
The main differences between indoor hockey and floorball are that the boards around the rink go up to one’s knees and the stick can’t come up above the knees, Root said.
Despite Canada’s ties to hockey, floorball was an entirely new game to the country when Root first found out about it in gym class. He and his teammates played three nights a week and two hours a night, just for fun.
That was just the beginning, though.
Because of the sport’s lack of popularity, they were able to form a Canadian national team – 80 percent of which comprised players from St. Andrew’s – to compete at the world championships in Finland. The players knew they were in for a challenge, but they didn’t know just how strong the competition would be.
Canada got destroyed, finishing near the bottom of a group of about 25 teams, Root said. The players lacked the floorball finesse that European teams had mastered. Accustomed to indoor hockey and ice hockey, Canada’s physical style of play frustrated opposing coaches and didn’t bode well with referees, Root said.
“In Canada, when we’re born, they give us a hockey stick,” Root said. “The kids that we were playing on the German teams, on the Finnish teams, they get a floorball stick when they’re born. That’s what they do. That’s what they play.”
But Root wasn’t done. He used that failure as fuel for next year’s world championship. Assembling a team of both Canadian and European players who were cut from their own teams, the Canadians formed a more formidable squad heading into the tournament.
Playing in front of 3,000 raucous fans in the quarterfinals amid a memorable run, Canada still lost, but it put up a fight, falling to the heavily favored host Germany by just two goals, Root said.
“It’s kind of hard to compete with, but eventually, I think you catch up and you make that gap a little bit smaller,” Root said. “I think getting to the quarterfinals showed that North America is developing to play the sport with the rest of Europe.”
Root went on to play defense for the men’s national team and was its youngest player. He said his team lost one game to No. 2 Finland 14-2, but he scored a top-corner goal.
While floorball was a key component of Root’s life, it wasn’t the only sport he played growing up. He also excelled in box lacrosse since the age of 6. In ninth grade, he tried out for an American field lacrosse team and got cut, motivating him to improve. Root eventually made the Ontario-based Edge Lacrosse team, which is when Drexel head coach Brian Voelker first saw him play — Root’s floorball prowess in the back of his mind.
“We kind of found out about it while we were recruiting him,” Voelker said. “I don’t think anybody here really knew what it was. All the coaches got on the Internet and looked up some YouTube stuff.”
After breaking his arm on the third day of practice last season, Root redshirted. This year, he plays long-stick midfield and is first on the team in caused turnovers with 10 and second in groundballs with 21.
Fellow defender Matt Dusek has been impressed with Root – one of seven Canadians on Drexel’s roster – so far. He said playing floorball likely helped hone Root’s stick skills.
“He flicks the ball to the spots where nobody is and then picks up the groundball easily,” Dusek said. “With things like that, I think it helps him out a lot.”

Friday, February 22, 2013

Men's Basketball

Syracuse-Georgetown reaches new heights, tensions flare in 1984 Big East championship

Published February 22, 2013 at 2:25 am 
Sonny Spera labeled it “Hoya Paranoia.” Rafael Addison said they were “like the Oakland Raiders of college basketball.” Andre Hawkins coined it a “Georgetown-against-the-world mentality.”

All three had a different, nasty, spiteful term to describe the tough-nosed style of basketball that defined Georgetown in the 1980s, but all of their callous accusations merged at a harsh consensus: The Hoyas were a dirty basketball team.

“The whole ‘Hoya Paranoia’ thing, I think they just fed off that,” Spera said.” I think they just liked to be the dark side of the force. Good versus evil. I think they didn’t mind playing the bad boy role. They loved it.”

That blood-bath, no-mercy, utter-hatred mentality bubbled to an all-time high in the Big East tournament on March 10, 1984, when Syracuse and Georgetown tussled in the championship finale.

With four minutes remaining, a game already doused with animosity turned brutal, as Georgetown big man Michael Graham took a left-handed swipe at Syracuse forward Andre Hawkins’ face. Referee Dick “Froggy” Paparo initially ejected Graham, but after discussing the situation with coaches Jim Boeheim and John Thompson, the officiating crew decided to reverse the call. Graham stayed in the game and fueled Georgetown to a win as part of a legendary kerfuffle that epitomizes the SU-Georgetown rivalry.

“You go to Syracuse, you have a friend at Syracuse, you even have a friend of a friend of a friend who goes to Syracuse, you just hate Georgetown,” Spera said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Late in the second half, that hatred reached new heights. Syracuse was up four points and a Big East championship was on the horizon. Then, chaos ensued.

Graham attempted a reverse layup in traffic that skimmed off of the backboard. Hawkins and Graham grappled for possession. Eventually, Hawkins snatched the ball away and fell to the floor. As he took the tumble, Graham swatted at him, barely missing the 6-foot-6 forward’s head.

“He took a huge swing at him,” Spera said. “He took a roundhouse, left-hand, all out punch, but he didn’t hit him. … It’s just a punk move.”

Paparo sprinted to the scene of the crime with a jolt in his step, ready to make a pivotal call. He signaled that Hawkins was ejected, jerking his hand toward the locker room. “He’s out! He’s out! He’s out!” Spera recalls Paparo shouting.

But after the refs convened and reached a verdict, Paparo trotted to the sideline to discuss the matter with Boeheim and Thompson. He reversed the call and Graham, who Spera called a “loose cannon,” stayed in the game.

That meant Syracuse only got two shots, instead of two additional technical foul shots and the ball. In a potentially pivotal twist that could have ignited SU to a victory, just the opposite happened.

Spera doesn’t know why the officials changed the call, but he speculates it was due to Georgetown’s intimidation factor, particularly that of the 6-foot-10, 269-pound behemoth Thompson, who Spera said had his way with Paparo.

Graham had a reputation as “the enforcer.” Addison said he epitomized the physical mentality that defined Georgetown during those years.

“Put it this way: I wasn’t surprised that Michael Graham tried something like that,” Addison said. “I would have been more surprised if somebody fell down and he helped them up.”

Hawkins said he had no idea Graham swatted his fist in his direction until after the game when he watched it on replay. He fell down and was focused on not traveling, his back turned when the punch came.

“If you watch the video, it shows that he took a swing at me, but he never connected,” Hawkins said.

“But he did take the swing, which means he should have been ejected, as far as I know.”

But he wasn’t. Hawkins fouled out a minute later as Georgetown sent the game into overtime, eventually coming away with the momentous win. Carried by Patrick Ewing, the Hoyas went on to win the national championship.

Spera said he remembers the brouhaha clearly, but he doesn’t remember much about Georgetown’s late-game push after the bedlam ensued.

“How about that for selective memory?” Spera said, laughing. “The details get a little fuzzy after that.”

Boeheim was infuriated after the game, pushing a chair in disgust in a postgame press conference.

“Today,” Boeheim said, still bewildered and befuddled by the reversed call, “the best team didn’t win.”

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Boeheim passes Bob Knight, moves into 2nd place on all-time wins list with 903

By Trevor Hass - Syracuse University '15
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim moved into second place on the all-time wins list after a 78-53 win against Rutgers.

If you were to walk around the campus at Syracuse University and ask 100 students who the head coach of the men’s basketball team was, I’d say 80 would respond with one simple word:


Sure, seven people would hesitate, and then, after an epiphany, yell out “Boa-heem!” hoping – praying – it was right.

Five more people would just look at you quizzically and have absolutely no idea what you were talking about and go about their day.

The remaining eight people would probably tell you they were late for some sorority shindig to avoid the embarrassment of not knowing the answer.

But, in all likelihood (no, I haven’t actually done this), 80 of the 100 students would give the right answer in a split second, with no hesitation and some serious pride: Boeheim.

Syracuse fans have a lot of pride when it comes to their basketball team, particularly their legendary head coach.

That pride was present Wednesday night for Syracuse fans, as Boeheim moved into sole possession of second place on the NCAA Division-I men’s basketball all-time wins list, passing Bob Knight.

Boeheim picked up his 903rd win in a 78-53 victory over Rutgers in Syracuse’s Big East opener.

Boeheim now sits behind only Mike Krzyzewski, who currently has 940 wins and has shown no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Boeheim is to Syracuse what Coach K is to Duke: longevity, commitment, an unremitting drive for excellence.

Some new fans might call him Jim Boeheim. Some fans who think they’re hotshots might call him Jimbo, JB or even J-Bay. Some might pretend they get coffee with him every weekend and call him Jimmy or Jimmy-boy.

But in general, he’s a man who goes by one word, a last name essentially synonymous with Syracuse basketball: Boeheim.

Boeheim is Syracuse basketball. It’s been that way since 1976, when he took over the reigns as head coach.

Before his incredible coaching career, he walked on to the basketball team in 1962. He ended up being a captain his senior year, playing alongside his freshman roommate and future NBA star, Dave Bing.

He went on to serve as an assistant coach from 1969-1976, and since then, he hasn’t skipped a beat.

There’s a reason Syracuse won a national championship in 2003. There’s a reason Syracuse has made the NCAA tournament 29 times in the last 36 years and won nine Big East regular season championships during that time. There’s a reason players ranging from Carmelo Anthony to Class of 2013 recruit Tyler Ennis have decided to come to Syracuse.

No, it’s not the weather. The Carrier Dome might have to do with it a little bit. Maybe the Big East (now ACC) is a factor. The 2-3 zone could contribute.

Maybe the awesome facilities, the lure of living on South Campus or the phenomenal restaurants Dinosaur BBQ and Pastabilities play a part.

But there’s one main reason top recruits decide to come to the ‘Cuse.

No, it’s not the painfully slow Wi-Fi connection, the painfully inefficient class selection process or the painfully expensive books.

I would assume you know what it is by now.

Just in case you somehow don’t…it’s Jimbo! J-Bay!

The man who has earned a spot on the Mount Rushmore of college coaches.

The man who has brought continued success to one of the nation’s top programs.

The man who has made Syracuse basketball what it is today.

Boeheim. 903 wins and counting.