In these uncertain times, many of us find ourselves reflecting on when our favorite player won MVP or when our team won their respective championship.
Among those reminiscing is Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim, except he coached a championship team in 2003. Seventeen years ago yesterday, the Syracuse Orange defeated the Kansas Jayhawks in the NCAA Tournament Championship by a score of 81 to 78.
Boeheim Recalls the Championship Run
On April 7, 2003, a freshman by the name of Carmelo Anthony led a Syracuse team consisting of only two seniors to the program’s first NCAA National Championship.
Syracuse’s run, as well as the game itself, was one for the ages.
On this date (4/7/2003): NATIONAL CHAMPIONS! Carmelo Anthony led the way with 20 points, 10 rebounds & 7 assists in an 81-78 win vs. Kansas. Gerry McNamara hit 6 first half 3-pointers, while Hakim Warrick finished it with "the block."
— Syracuse Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) April 7, 2020
Boeheim says championships like those in 2003 are unforgettable.
Boeheim mentioned the importance of freshman on his roster. Led by Carmelo Anthony, the Orange started three freshmen and a sophomore throughout the season. Syracuse set a new standard that experience and seniority are not the end-all factors.
In that championship game, one of the head coaches would be receiving their first championship. Boeheim had been to the title game twice (1987 and 1996), while Kansas’s Roy Williams finished runner-up in 1991. Kansas fielded a roster of five future-NBA players compared to Syracuse’s two.
The actual game was tight throughout, with Syracuse’s Gerry McNamara (freshman, of course) knocking down six three pointers in the first half. Despite an 11-point lead at halftime, Roy Williams’s Jayhawks continued to pick away at the Syracuse lead to make it a three-point game in the dying seconds. Syracuse’s Hakim Warrick blocked a three point attempt out of bounds, and Kansas’s Kirk Heinrich airballed an off-balance three as time expired.
Not to be outshone by McNamara’s 18 first-half points, Carmelo Anthony finished with a game-high 20 points. Anthony also led his team in rebounds (ten) and assists (seven). Leading his team in points and rebounds in each game of the tournament except one, Anthony received the Most Outstanding Player award.
Boeheim reflects on the importance of his young star on their historical run and everything since then.
After the Championship
Since 2003, Syracuse reached the Final Four twice, falling in the semifinals in 2013 and 2016.
For Boeheim and the majority of the Syracuse lineup, the 2003 run was their shining moment. Carmelo Anthony and Hakim Warrick were the only two to make it into the NBA. Warrick spent the back half of his professional career playing abroad.
His teammate Carmelo Anthony followed a different path. The Denver Nuggets selected Anthony with the third overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft. This draft also had future Hall of Fame players including LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Although Anthony has yet to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy, he has made a name for himself at the five teams he has played for. Most recently, he revamped his career with the Portland Trailblazers until COVID-19 halted the 2019-2020 NBA season.
Jim Boeheim added that Americans must remain hopeful during trying times to see their normal lives resume.
This is perhaps more applicable to his former star player and leader at Syracuse. When sports eventually do return, Boeheim and Anthony will look to capture that championship feeling again, just in different leagues.