Adrian Autry will not be Jim Boeheim.
That became clear early on in his opening press conference in March, when the inevitable question arose: Will he play in the 2-3 zone or man-to-man? – was asked and Autry’s answer focused on Syracuse’s versatility.
Over the last 47 years, Boeheim stayed true to his gut and later his zone, watching the Orange develop into an annual contender until his retirement.
Autry was one of its stars in the 1990s.
Later his chief assistant.
And in a whirlwind that followed Syracuse’s exit from the ACC Tournament, he became Boeheim’s replacement.
This is all new for Autry, who has not been a head coach at the high school or college level.
This is also new for the Orange. But while Boeheim and others don’t expect a copy draft, the underlying paradox for Autry is that he will have to emulate an element of Boeheim’s tenure, similar to other former players – Kevin Ollie for Jim Calhoun at Connecticut in 2012, Jon Scheyer for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke in 2022 – took over from their legendary coaches. There can be no tax.
Autry has been tasked with protecting the reputation of a program that has recently mixed regular-season mediocrity with the magic of the NCAA Tournament.
The only way for the Harlem native to build trust with the fan base is “you win,” Boeheim told The Post.
“He’s probably more prepared than 95 percent of new head coaches,” Boeheim said. “And that’s important. He won’t see anything he hasn’t seen, and he’s perfectly prepared to take this on.”
Autry’s first chance to be a head coach in college required years of patience, after three years at Virginia Tech and the last 11 years at Syracuse.
He only expressed his desire to become a coach when his playing career abroad ended and he became involved in real estate.
“After I finished playing in Europe, I didn’t want to play much basketball anymore,” Autry told The Post.
After a family trip to Syracuse, Boeheim and assistant Mike Hopkins helped change his mind.
Autry started with positions at the high school and AAU levels.
He built relationships that became a foundation for recruiting, and when Seth Greenberg hired him to the Hokies’ staff in 2008, Autry learned how to turn those connections into a “geographic footprint,” he said
“Some guys jump in early and take the plunge and really try to see if they can swim in that pool,” Bob Mackey, Autry’s high school coach at St. Nicholas of Tolentine, told The Post. “Other guys are more patient.”
Autry continued to wait after returning to Syracuse as an assistant in 2011.
He focused on the task at hand — scouting the Orange’s opponents, leading his group in practice, recruiting — rather than the benefits that pursuing a head coaching title might bring.
It’s the same approach he took as a point guard growing up in Harlem, focusing on the St. Nicholas of Tolentine Catholic High School Athletic Association roster rather than the hectic recruiting scene – Malik Sealy (St. John’s), Brian Reese (North Carolina), Khalid Reeves (Arizona), Derrick Phelps (North Carolina) and Rob Phelps (Providence) also attracted college coaches – around him.
Shawnelle Scott, his former AAU teammate, recalled that when Autry was 13 years old, he would always stay at the park and “work on his game.”
Autry understands basketball like a game of chess, Mackey said. He analyzed the pieces and either anticipated the next moves or knew the exact reactions required, which eventually transitioned to coaching.
“He’s grounded and won’t let go of the situation he’s in,” Scott told the Post. “He’s just thinking about the work he has to do.”
By the time Autry finished his four-year playing career at Syracuse, he had accumulated enough assists (631) and steals (217) to still rank fifth and sixth on his all-time list, while also making three appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
As coach of the Orange, Autry must now balance success on the field and the inevitable culture change that comes with new leadership.
It started with everyday changes.
The 51-year-old felt that he had reached a point in his career where he had to think about pursuing the job of head coach.
Syracuse was a “dream job” for him and he knew taking over the Orange would be easier than starting from scratch elsewhere.
As Boeheim’s retirement became apparent and “father time took its course,” Autry said, Boeheim began assigning additional duties to the other assistants. Autry got to a point where he knew he would eventually retire.
He didn’t ask, but then it became a reality in March in Syracuse.
Boeheim had not considered resigning, he said.
The transfer of power is complete.
He will stay at practice for 20 to 30 minutes and then leave.
He loves that.
Boeheim won’t be at the season opener on Monday either, preferring to watch from home.
The 2-3 zone’s most loyal believer knows the Orange may not utilize this defense, and he’s okay with that.
Boeheim, the architect, seems satisfied with his final act.
And Autry, the heir apparent, seems ready.