‘Special’: New coach Autry wins Syracuse debut

Syracuse‘s post-Jim Boeheim era began on Monday with a sight that became very familiar under the longtime head coach: A win.

In his first game at the helm, Adrian “Red” Autry — who played under Boeheim and was an assistant on his staff for 12 years before being named his successor — guided the Orange to an 83-72 win over New Hampshire.

“I haven’t really had a lot of time to think about it,” Autry told reporters after the game. “I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts about it tonight. My dad came up, so that was special. I had some friends up. Lot of texts before the game. Texts now. I’m sure it’ll all sink in. I was really excited we held it together and escaped with the win.”

Syracuse jumped out to a 22-point lead in the first 10 minutes of the game, but New Hampshire cut it to six early in the second half after an 8-0 run.

Ironically, it was a switch to Syracuse’s famed 2-3 zone that enabled the Orange to pull away for the win. Autry said in the offseason he planned to play man-to-man, a stark change from teams coached by Boeheim, who said last March he was “thrilled to be retired” after 47 seasons. But on Monday, Autry needed to bring it back out.

“Thank god for the 2-3 zone,” he said. “We actually started practicing the zone sometime last week. We knew that we would need it. We were fortunate we got six or seven guys that know the zone, that played it last year. So that helped us out a lot.”

Star guard Judah Mintz finished with 20 points despite dealing with foul trouble, while Justin Taylor had 14 points, 6 boards and 3 assists. Notre Dame transfer JJ Starling struggling shooting the ball, scoring 10 points and going 3-for-13 from the field.

After the game, Autry spoke about how different the game experience was in his new role.

“I prepared the same,” he said. “The biggest difference, obviously, is I’m the head coach. Had to call a couple timeouts, try to gather the guys. The one thing when I was with Coach, Coach let us be involved a lot. So it wasn’t that much of a difference, it’s just me being the head coach, which is a big difference. It was exciting. I was excited.”

“It’s good if it works,” he added with a laugh. “I’m sure sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t. But that’s what I signed up for and I’m excited for it.”

Autry won’t have much time to bask in the glow of his first career win; Syracuse is back in action Wednesday against Canisius.

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