Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Before Krzyzewski; Duke (and Braves) were better known for Jack Marin

Still musing about globalization and sports regionalization as the Summer Games begin in China. The U.S. men’s basketball team arrived in Beijing to crowds chanting for Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony.

“The Chinese people love basketball,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said, “and we’re excited we’re playing the first game against China.”

My prediction? This year’s Team USA brings the gold back to America, probably in convincing fashion.

One of the assistant coaches Krzyzewski has along for the Olympic carpet ride is Syracuse University coach Jim Boeheim.

Boeheim was named the Orange’s coach my sophomore year at SU. A few years later, when I was the sports columnist for the local morning paper, I always appreciated Boeheim’s class. Sure, he could be sarcastic and didn’t suffer fools gladly. But he always returned my phone calls and made time to answer the media.

Since such meager beginnings, he’s gone on to a 771-278 record and was selected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005. But way back when, when Boeheim first took over in the Salt City, the SU program was only slightly better than Niagara, Canisius and St. Bonaventure in terms of national notoriety. The difference? Boeheim and Syracuse became charter members in the Big East conference, which ESPN soon made into a household word.

Also, consider how much things have improved for the NBA since the mid-1970s when Boeheim took over at his alma mater. In several cities besides Buffalo, the league was hanging on by its fingernails. Ironically, the Braves were one of the first teams to hype individuals instead of team. Guys like Bob McAdoo, Randy Smith and Dr. Jack Ramsay started to become known nationally while the team was going down the tubes locally.

Sometimes life comes down to the company you keep. Wrong choices can haunt a team, a city, for a long, long time.

No comments: