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Syracuse's Jim Boeheim 1 away from 900 wins

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Syracuse's Jim Boeheim 1 away from 900 wins

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Jim Boeheim has experienced a lot since the dawn of the new century - prostate surgery, a national championship, induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, a pair of Olympic gold medals, the firing of a lifelong friend on his staff.

Yet even though it's been 50 years since he enrolled as a freshman at Syracuse, the 68-year-old Boeheim just keeps rolling along, as intense and focused as ever in his 37th year at his alma mater, worried only about the next game when he's not recruiting or raising money for cancer research.

`'He hasn't lost a beat,'' said Boeheim's wife, Juli. ``Jim's got an intense edge at all times.''

One that has brought him to the doorstep of another milestone - 900 victories. Sometime soon - the first chance comes against Detroit on Monday night in the Carrier Dome on the court that bears his name - Boeheim will join a most elite fraternity, one with only two other members - Mike Krzyzewski (936) and Bob Knight (902), the only men's coaches in Division I history to win that many games.

``The sooner we get through it, the better we'll be able to focus on the season,'' said Boeheim, 899-304 for his career after his fourth-ranked Orange (9-0) beat Canisius 85-61 on Saturday night. ``This team does not care about how many wins I have. They care about getting the next win. That's it. Everything else does not matter. It really doesn't. I'm happy I'm still here.''

Even though his Orange have won more games the past three seasons than during any three-year stretch in his career and Boeheim's program is probably better than it's ever been, crossing another threshold on the victory list isn't fodder for the dinner table.

``We don't even mention it at home,'' Juli said.

One of a vanishing breed, Boeheim has been head coach at Syracuse since 1976 and has never had a desire to go anywhere else. His first victory as a college coach was against Harvard in Springfield, Mass., a 75-48 triumph on Nov. 26, 1976.

``We were behind at halftime, not playing well at all,'' Boeheim recalled. ``We just kind of went to something real simple offensively and outscored them about 20-something to six in the second half.''

After taking over for Roy Danforth, Boeheim's Orange went 26-4 in his rookie season, losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

``We were a good eastern program,'' Boeheim said. ``At that time, St. Bonaventure, Holy Cross, and all those programs were just as good as we were. We were a little bit better at that point in time, but not much. There was really not much difference between all the eastern schools.''

Boeheim has transformed what was a sound program - Syracuse was 128-71 in eight seasons under Danforth, going 23-9 and reaching its first Final Four in the 1974-75 season - and taken the Orange into the rarefied air of three national title games, winning in 2003 in New Orleans.

Boeheim holds the Division I record for most 20-win seasons at 34, has 48 NCAA tournament victories (fifth all-time and one behind Jim Calhoun) in 29 trips, and tops the Big East with 402 wins.

And, clearly, he's in a better place than he was a year ago when former assistant Bernie Fine was fired amid allegations of sexual abuse against two former ball boys. No charges were filed, and last month federal authorities dropped their investigation. Fine has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

Boeheim defended his lifelong friend and endured criticism and scrutiny, with some activists calling for him to be fired. He was questioned repeatedly during news conferences about the case and was sued for defamation by the ball boys (the case was thrown out).

Through it all, Boeheim simply did what he's done for nearly four decades - prepare for the next game. The Orange responded by winning a school-record 34 games, narrowly missing another trip to the Final Four.

``He has so much knowledge and experience. I write in a journal the way that he handles certain situations,'' said longtime assistant Mike Hopkins, who performs the job Fine held, coaching the big men. ``Last year was 10 years of education in one, managing and motivating - Cool Hand Luke.

``Every year you think you've seen it all, and last year you saw a whole new chapter just in terms of what a great leader he is.''

Boeheim has been part of Krzyzewki's staff for the past two Summer Olympics, and the two have formed a solid friendship.

``Jim is one of the great coaches of all time, and he's an even better man,'' Krzyzewski said. ``It will be an amazing accomplishment when he reaches 900 wins. What is even more amazing is that he's done that at one school. Jim Boeheim and Syracuse University are synonymous. He has built one of the great brands in college basketball, one that has withstood the sport's most unrelenting test - the test of time.''

Knight's Indiana team deprived Boeheim and the Orange of a national championship in 1987 when Keith Smart's baseline jumper with 4 seconds left gave the Hoosiers a one-point victory.

Knight could be courtside on the ESPN broadcast crew calling the New Year's Eve game in the Carrier Dome against Central Connecticut. If the Orange remain undefeated and beat Central Connecticut, Boeheim would pass Knight on that day.

And despite what the coach says, the Orange are stoked for Monday night's game.

``I can't wait until he gets to 900,'' sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams said. ``He's been through the ups and downs with the school. He wants all of us to be great and to play to our potential. I think that's what makes him so great.''

Added senior Brandon Triche, who leads the team in scoring: ``He's one of the best motivators. Sometimes, he's tough on you, but he's motivated me to be the player I am.''

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AP Basketball Writer Jim O'Connell contributed to this report.

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NFL expert believes Scott Turner will build an offense to cater to the Redskins strengths

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NFL expert believes Scott Turner will build an offense to cater to the Redskins strengths

Most of the time in the NFL, successful offenses consist of schemes built around its player's strengths, rather than the other way around.

For much of the last decade in Washington, there's been a large difference between the offensive player's strengths and the scheme they've run.

But with new offensive coordinator Scott Turner now in charge, Rotoworld's Josh Norris no longer believes that will be the case in Washington.

Norris joined the Redskins Talk podcast in Miami and gave a lengthy example from Turner's first game as offensive coordinator in Carolina as a way of showing how the young coordinator came up with a game plan to fit his team's personnel.

"Curtis Samuel is one of the best receivers with the ball in his hands in the NFL," Norris said. "Yet, [the Panthers] were sending him on these vertical routes where he was creating separation and getting open, and the quarterbacks just couldn't get him the ball. It was awful."

Norris went on to explain that in Turner's first opportunity as offensive coordinator, he called three or four plays designed for Samuel out of the backfield during the Panthers' first two offensive series. 

"He understands where his players win," Norris said of Turner. "If they're not getting the ball enough, [Turner] seems willing to draw up plays each and every week to get his players the ball."

Last year, the Panthers' best wide receiver was second-year veteran D.J. Moore. The Maryland product finished the season in the top-10 in both receiving yards and yards per game, despite having a limited route tree, according to Norris.

With inconsistent quarterback play between Kyle Allen and Will Grier, Turner was able to design plays that catered to what Moore does best: catch intermediate passes across the middle.

"I think D.J. Moore is a very good player. Speaking of another Terp, he's no Stefon Diggs in terms of going out there, running the route tree, creating separation in isolation every single time," Norris said. "Moore right now is kind of a dig, a slant, a crosser, a drag route guy. He's not someone who can run this full, all-encompassing route tree. The Turners understood that, and gave him the ball, fed him the ball 7-10 yards from the line of scrimmage and allowed him to win in after the catch."

The success of Turner and the Redskins offense in 2020 will largely depend on the jump quarterback Dwayne Haskins makes from his rookie season to Year 2. The Redskins offense a year ago was not designed to suit Haskins' strengths. Washington was one of the most run-heavy teams in 2019, although the ground game brought them little success.

When the Redskins drafted Haskins, he was a raw product. Then-head coach Jay Gruden did not plan to play the rookie much in 2019. The Redskins planned to win in 2019 with their running game and defense — something they did well in 2018 before Alex Smith got hurt — but both units failed to live up to expectations.

Haskins was inserted into the lineup as the starter in Week 9 and seemed to improve each week. But it took a while for the Redskins to sway away from the offensive philosophy they started this season with to change into one that could get the most out of their rookie passer. Haskins only started to look like a competent, potential franchise QB in the final two games he played.

Like the Redskins, Turner underwent a lot of change last season in Carolina. One of the things that impressed Norris the most was his ability to alter his system.

"There's nothing more impressive to me, with Norv and Scott being around for so long, but willing to adapt and change," Norris said. 

During Turner's introductory conference call with reporters earlier this month, he emphasized the versatility of his system as one of his greatest strengths.

“If you look at the offense and the system that we have been a part of, talking about my dad and going back to him – the different places that we've been our offense has looked a little different," Turner said on Jan. 15. "It is still the same system, but we have versatility within our system where we're going to really fit and play to our player's strengths. So right now, as a coaching staff we're really trying to get to know these guys."

Turner also spoke highly of Haskins and seemed to have a solid plan of action to run a successful offense.

"Dwayne, you obviously see the big, strong guy who can stand in the pocket and really push the ball down the field," Turner said. "We're going to want to use a lot of play-action pass and then something also he's done a good job of in his past and in college too is just being able to get the ball out quickly and kind of distribute the football to the playmakers and let them make the plays for him."

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How can Ron Rivera and the Redskins become contenders? Mike Rizzo gives his advice

How can Ron Rivera and the Redskins become contenders? Mike Rizzo gives his advice

If a college offered a How to Build a D.C. Team Into a Champion class, Mike Rizzo would be an apt choice to lead the course.

Rizzo has been a top executive with the Nationals since 2009, when he assumed the role of general manager. He's overseen Washington's rise from NL East fodder to NL East contender to, of course, now World Series winners. 

The process was arduous, but Rizzo was steadfast in his approach through it all and was committed to sticking to his values and his roster. He was the perfect leader to help elevate the Nats to the top of baseball, and he's also the perfect person to give advice to Ron Rivera and the Redskins as they try to make the same climb in football.

So, the Redskins Talk podcast searched for that kind of advice on Wednesday when Rizzo sat down with them in Miami at Super Bowl LIV.

Rizzo, who's actually already fond of Rivera since Rivera played for Rizzo's beloved Bears, looked back on the early days of his rebuild with the Nationals, stressing the importance of having a vision.

"It's very difficult. It's more difficult towards the fan base," Rizzo explained. "With them, we were honest and up front and kind of mapped out what our blueprint was for how we were going to develop this thing... From that day on we had a blueprint and a plan of how to do this. When I took over as GM in 2009, we started implementing the plan."

It seems as if Rivera is being allowed to begin his tenure in a similar way. The two-time Coach of the Year is the key component in what Dan Snyder has called a "coach-centric" structure, and so far, Rivera has brought in plenty of new figures at all levels of the organization. He'll likely do the same when free agency and the draft come and go.

That's just the beginning, obviously, which Rizzo discussed. It's rare for a franchise to flip its fortunes in a flash, especially when they're in bad as shape as the Curly Ws once were or the Burgundy and Gold currently is. But growth should happen, and that growth will hopefully lead to an eventual explosion.

"We saw small increments of improvement," Rizzo told Redskins Talk. "We went from 59 wins to 69 wins. From 69 wins to 80 wins. And then we went on our big runs."

Rivera is taking over a group that just went 3-13, and while there's plenty of optimism for what he can do, the progress may initially be slow. Six victories in 2020, for example, won't result in a playoff berth but would represent quite a jump. Yet even with what could be an uninspiring record in Rivera's debut season, there may be some vital developing going on.

"It happens most powerfully in places that nobody sees," Rizzo said. "It's down at the grassroots."

In the end, Rizzo has emerged from the Nationals' ascension understanding that making a team into a legitimate force is insanely difficult. However, the task becomes more doable if there's patience and unity between the people calling the shots. 

Essentially, in that hypothetical How to Build a D.C. Team Into a Champion class, the following quote from Rizzo would be the principle takeaway.

"Sometimes you have hiccups and take steps sideways or even take steps backwards," he said. "Ownership better be on board, you better have their support, they better have the blueprint in front of them and believe in the dream. And you better have the personnel in the front office and the decision-makers to make sometimes scary decisions. You can't be afraid to make big decisions and bold decisions to accomplish big things."

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