Boeheim: Tony Bennett Is The Best Coach In College Basketball

"It's a no-brainer," Boeheim said. "You don't judge somebody on one game"

Tiki and Tierney
March 30, 2018 - 7:16 pm

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After becoming the first 1-seed to lose to a 16 in NCAA Tournament history, Virginia’s Tony Bennett was named Associate Press Coach of the Year. 

Jim Boeheim had no problem with that. In fact, he defended Bennett and his award – heartily.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Boeheim said on Tiki and Tierney. “He’s a great coach – the best coach in the country. You don’t judge somebody on one game. The problem with college basketball is we're all judged on one game. The better you are in the regular season, then the further you have to go. For us this year, they think I’m great because we weren’t even supposed to get in, we got in, and we won three games. Our fans say, ‘Boy, he did great.’”

Some people told Boeheim it was the best coaching job of his career, which he doesn’t understand.

“What does that mean?” the 73-year-old asked. “Last year I didn’t do a good job? I didn’t try hard? Bill Belichick goes out and does his best job every game, every day. Some years, it works better than others. It’s the nature of coaching. This year, this team just really got going. They played good defense all year, and defense can win in the tournament for you. We shot 35 percent in the tournament and 20 from the three, and we won three games.”

But wait, why is Bennett the best coach in college basketball? Why is he deserving of that honor even though he’s never reached a Final Four?

“He’s taking guys that most people didn’t recruit,” Boeheim said. “Now he’s got a couple highly recruited players, but before when he first won, he took guys that nobody recruited – Malcolm Brogdon – and he won in the ACC playing against teams with six, seven McDonald’s All Americans. So I think you got to say that’s a little coaching there. That’s part of his system.”

That system, of course, is defense, defense, defense. It might not be pretty to watch, but it’s darn effective.

“We all say you win with defense, but then when you get guys that are good defensively, you don’t give them any credit for winning with defense,” Boeheim said. “But they win with defense. This year he had better offensive players, but it hurt them to lose (De’Andre) Hunter. . . . At the end of the day, if those guys come back, they’ll be right there again. They’ll be a No. 1 seed next year, and they’ll be right there.”

Boeheim, who has coached Syracuse to five Final Fours, said there’s not much difference between coaching in the regular season and coaching in the tournament.

“Not really,” he said. “You do what you do all year. I think our zone helps us a little bit because teams haven’t seen it. That’s what hurts us when we run into Duke. They played against it so they’ve got an idea.”

Boeheim can’t help but chuckle when upcoming opponents shrug off the Syracuse zone. We’ve played against a zone before, they’ll say.

“Well, they didn’t play against our zone,” Boeheim said. “Our zone is different. That doesn’t mean you can’t beat it because you can, but familiarity helps a little bit. We do it a little different, we play it a little different, and teams that see us a lot are better against us.”