Jim Boeheim wins back the right to retire on his own terms

Jim Boeheim will coach Syracuse beyond the 2017-18 season. (AP)
Jim Boeheim will coach Syracuse beyond the 2017-18 season. (AP)

So much for the retirement timetable Syracuse attempted to force on Jim Boeheim after a flurry of NCAA violations occurred on his watch.

The most powerful man at the university has won the struggle to determine his own exit date.

Syracuse announced Sunday that Boeheim has agreed to a contract extension that will extend his tenure beyond the 2017-18 season, the year that was supposed to be the last for the Orange’s legendary head coach. The school said in 2015 that Boeheim would retire in three years after an NCAA investigation uncovered academic misconduct, extra benefits violations and impermissible booster activity in the men’s basketball program.

The revelation that Boeheim, 72, will coach beyond next season arrives hours after Syracuse’s coach-in-waiting left to become the next head coach at Washington. Mike Hopkins had passed on other job opportunities in the past, but it’s clear he felt he could wait no longer with Boeheim not ready to commit to handing over the reins just yet.

In his statement announcing Boeheim’s extension, Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack tried his best to paint the decision as purely a reaction to Hopkins’ departure.

“Mike accepting the position at Washington has put us in a unique position,” Wildhack said. “The circumstances are different now than they were when he was named head-coach-in-waiting.

“After discussing it with Chancellor Syverud, we believe the best decision for the student-athletes currently in the program and those who are committed to attending the University is to extend Coach Boeheim’s contract. Jim has enthusiastically agreed.”

It’s no surprise Boeheim was, uh, enthusiastic. He has never been on board with the forced retirement date publicly, let alone behind closed doors.

Asked at last year’s Final Four about his longevity, Boeheim offered a lengthy but vague response that seemed to suggest he wanted to keep coaching.

“I feel the same as I did 10 or 20 years ago,” he said. “I probably feel better. I’m doing pilates two times a week now for two years. The 10 or 15 years before that, I didn’t work out. I’m probably in better shape now. I’m in the weight room a little bit now, which I didn’t do for 20, 30 years before that since I stopped playing.

“So I feel healthy. My kids, you know, they keep you going. Teenagers, I got three of ‘em. I think all those things, you know, they help you.

“But I’ve never known how long I’m going to coach. I still don’t know how long I’m going to coach. You know, that’s not something I think about. I’ve never talked about my contract or the length of it or years. I’m still not talking about it. I just know that you could retire tomorrow. I mean, I don’t know. It just depends what happens.

“Al McGuire once told me, ‘One day I was driving to work, I come down the ramp and I turn right. The day I turn left, I’m not going to work anymore. He turned left one day. That was it. So I’m going to turn left someday, too.”

Does that sound like someone who planned to retire after next season until Hopkins’ surprise departure on Sunday? Of course not.

Jim Boeheim intends to retire when he’s ready to retire, and nobody at Syracuse either has the desire or the power to tell him otherwise.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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