WASHINGTON – Jim Boeheim sat on the Syracuse bench, chin resting firmly on palm, watching the final minutes of his 558th and last Big East regular-season game. Georgetown students were preparing to storm the court.
This was not the way he wanted to it to end. Not with the Orange's worst offensive output since they help start the league 34 years ago, not to mention the worst since Boeheim became Syracuse's coach 37 years and 913 wins ago.
The No. 17 Orange lost 61-39 to the No. 5 Hoyas on Saturday, closing another door on a rivalry that helped define an era. The loss, as bad as it was, was secondary to the feelings felt by the two men who got it kick-started all those years ago — Boeheim and former Georgetown coach John Thompson.
"John and I were talking before and after the game," Boeheim said. "It's a sad, sad time."
Syracuse is leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Georgetown and six other schools are splintering away to form their own league while keeping the Big East name. It's all because of football. Afterward, Boeheim reminisced at length, but he also smiled and tried to act as if he wasn't going to miss it.
"Well, you know, I'm pretty much ready to go play golf someplace. If I was 40 years old, I'd be real upset. I'm not 40 years old, that should be obvious," the 68-year-old coach said. "I'll miss some of these press conferences with some of you people. Everybody's mad at me for a couple of weeks: 'How could he say those things?' It's easy, real easy. I don't care."
That sounded like a retirement speech, but Boeheim said in the locker room later that he was referring to the fact that the season is nearly over and not to read anything more into it.
Either way, Syracuse basketball is never going to be the same.
"Football just is going to run the ship, no matter what happens, and that's happened," Boeheim said. "I understand that. It's the way it is. It's the way it has to be, I think. But it's been an unbelievable rivalry, and you don't remember one game or two, you remember the total package of the series, and it's just been a tremendous series form the very beginning."
Boeheim called Saturday's loss a "blimp on the radar." He surely meant to say "blip," but Hoyas fans will remember it otherwise. It was the most lopsided game in the series since 1985. It was the fewest points scored by Syracuse since a 36-35 win over Kent State on Dec. 1, 1962.
The Orange (23-8, 11-7) will go into their final Big East tournament next week having lost four of five. They shot 32 percent against the Hoyas, missing 10 of 11 3-point attempts. Starters Brandon Triche and James Southerland combined to shoot 1 for 17 from the field, giving little support to leading scorer Michael Carter-Williams (17 points).
"We've lost a little of our confidence offensively," Boeheim said.
Hoyas students chanted "A-C-C" as the game turned into a rout in the second half, but they will no doubt miss the team they love to hate. One student's sign included the words: "End of an era," ''See ya" and "Peace out." For once, the ritual signing of "Na na na na, hey, hey, goodbye" had a bit of extra meaning.
"If you think of (this) one game, that's not it," Boeheim said. "It's been a 30-plus year rivalry that's been good. It's has its ups and downs. ... It's been pretty competitive. This is probably one of the least competitive games. ... We've won more than our fair share of games in the league, and we've had more than our fair share of success."
Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP