Jim Boeheim coached his first college basketball game as the head coach of the Syracuse Orangemen in the Fall of 1976. He was eleven wins behind Army head coach Mike Krzyzewski and 53 wins behind Detroit head coach Dick Vitale. 38 years later, Boeheim (934) is 855 wins ahead of Vitale and 35 wins behind Krzyzewski. They will be three of the more than 35,000 people inside of the Carrier Dome on Saturday when Duke takes on Syracuse at 6:30PM on ESPN, but the spotlight will be shining brightest on the two head coaches in their first meeting as ACC conference foes.
They are now the winningest coaches in Division I history with a combined 1,914 victories, soon to be 1915. Who adds to their win total remains to be seen, by Syracuse enters the game 20-0 on the season and Duke is on a five-game win streak that has seen them playing their best basketball of the season. While the two men have great histories and stories from the past, none of that will matter once the ball is tipped in Syracuse tomorrow evening. I caught up with ESPN's Dick Vitale to get some history on the two legends' relationship, what makes them such great coaches and what will be the deciding factors in Saturday night's game.
Coach K and Jim Boeheim have been friends for a long time off the court. When the game tips off Saturday, do you think that relationship will change how they call the game?
No, not really. These guys have such ultimate respect for one another. I spoke to Jimmy today and he just has such a great admiration for Mike. As you know, he's served as his assistant on the Olympic team in 2008, 2012 and he's going to do it again in 2016. Obviously, he wants to beat his friend. Both guys really are as great as they are because they're fierce competitors. They absolutely are all about today. It's not about the 900+ wins, it's all about today. And that's what makes them so special.
Have you been around the two of them when they were together?
Absolutely. They're really two guys that really know how to make one laugh. They're fun to be with. The one thing you got to remember about both guys is they're both terrific, terrific family guys. They're all about their family, they're all about their children, they're all about more than just basketball. That's what makes them special. They're all about fundraising, helping others. I'm on the Board of Directors with Mike Krzyzewski at the V Foundation and I know what Mike has done for us. It's amazing what Jim has done for cancer up in Syracuse. The Dick Vitale Gala, the first one we ever had, raised over 1 million dollars in one night. We honored Mike Krzyzewski. My tenth one, which will be in 2015, we're going to honor Jim Boeheim. We'll go over probably a million-five as well. They're really dedicated, truly good, good people.
Coach K just got his 900th win at Duke. He and Coach Boeheim are the only two men's coaches to go over 900 wins at one school. Why do you think they've stayed at those schools for so long?
Well, they're both at schools they love. I mean, Jim Boeheim, he sleeps, breathes, and drinks Syracuse orange. He was there as a student. He was there as an assistant coach. He's been there 30 years as an assistant coach. He's been there for five decades, loves the school. I've said it before and I'll say it again, he has earned the right to where they should build a statue on campus in his name for what he has done for that school. He will probably become one of only two coaches to win over 1,000 games in Division One basketball is unreal. Pat Summit's done it in the women's game and now Mike and Jim are going to do it in the men's game. I think the game has everything you want. Two hall of fame coaches, the two winningest coaches, two of the best diaper dandies in America, a potent offense, a potent defense, two of the elite programs, 35,000 fans, undefeated team, a team on a roll. What more could you want? I'm as excited as I can be to sit at courtside on Saturday night.
You said recently on twitter that Jim Boeheim said it was the most hype he's ever seen for a game?
Yeah, he told me today that it's the most hyped game in 38 years that he's been there. It doesn't mean it's the most important game. Obviously, there were some bigtime battles with Patrick Ewing, with Chris Mullen and St. John's, with Ray Allen and company and Connecticut. For the first time in an ACC matchup, and let's face it, Duke is a lot like the Yankees or Notre Dame in football. There are people that love them and there are people that hate them. What they do is, they always create and they get the reaction. They move the wire, man. They move it. They have just a special way about them. When they walk in the arena on Saturday night, you know you're going to hear all the boos and everything like that. And they're used to that, they're acclimated to it. The game will come down to something very simple. If they can make the threes, and they get Dawkins and Hood and company to make some threes, they can be in great shape. If they don't, they can be in real trouble. The second factor, Duke must contain and control the unbelievable offensive rebounding ability, that was the difference against Wake. They dominated Wake on the offensive glass.
What does Syracuse have to do to get the win?
Well, I think #1, Syracuse has got to make sure they can make some shots. They have not shot the ball well recently. They've relied so much on the offensive boards. I think #2, they've got to control Duke's three-point shooters. They're going to obviously identify when Dawkins comes on the floor with their length. And #3, they're gonna need a great game, and he's been super all year, from the kid Ennis. The kid Ennis is tremendous. You talk about two diaper dandies that have been big impact players, you have them both here, in Parker and Ennis. Without either kid, those two teams are not sitting where they're sitting right now.
How does Jabari Parker compare to other freshman that you covered over the years?
Oh, I mean he's one of the great ones. He does it all. I mean, Jabari has great versatility. I think what makes him special is his ability to be multi-dimensional. He can step out and hit a three and now he's rebounding like, unbelievable. You know, he went through a little slump -- all these kids, Randle, Wiggins, they all have a couple of games where, you know, they're not doing what people expect. The problem is when you're as good as these kids, you expect it every, every night. They're human beings, I mean they're teenagers. It's not gonna happen every night. You look at the total body of work, and Jabari has been sensational. You're picking an All-American team, he's going to be right there with you. He's one of the great diaper dandies I've seen in quite a while. He does it all.
What's your expectation for the game? Who do you think is going to come out on top?
Oh, you know, whenever I do a game I don't project the score or winner. It's just not right because I'm doing the game. I think the game comes down to, like I said earlier: #1 it's a matter of Duke making some threes. #2 it's a matter of Syracuse getting on the offensive boards and making shots. They're not going to beat Duke scoring 55-60 points. I mean, Duke's gonna score. I know they're always tough, but Duke has good scoring ability. You saw what they did in putting 80 on the board against a great defensive unit in Pittsburgh. Duke is playing, right now, its best basketball. When they went through that little mini-slump when they really struggled in the game with Clemson and the game with Notre Dame, I certainly give those teams credit, they earned them, they won the games, but the bottom line is Mike Krzyzewski was going through a tough time then. His brother had just passed, he had missed practice, the funeral, the whole bit. And that all weighs on you. Now, they're in the groove and they're playing like Duke is capable of playing.
Thanks for your time, Coach Vitale.
Thank you, and remember the game is at 6:30 on ESPN. I can't wait. IT'S GOING TO BE AWESOME, BABY! WITH A CAPITAL A.
If you want to hear Dickie V's thoughts on the game, listen to his podcast by going to his website DickVitaleOnline.com, click Podcasts and listen there. If you'd rather read his thoughts, click ESPN in the upper-right hand corner of his website or follow him on twitter @DickieV.