Adrian Autry won’t be Jim Boeheim.
That became apparent early in his introductory press conference in March, when the inevitable question — will he play the 2-3 zone or man-to-man? — was asked and Autry’s response centered around Syracuse being versatile.
For the last 47 years, Boeheim stuck to his gut, and later his zone, while watching the Orange blossom into a yearly contender until his retirement.
Autry was one of his stars in the 1990s.
Later, his top assistant.
And in a whirlwind following Syracuse’s ACC Tournament exit, he became Boeheim’s replacement.
This is all new to Autry, who hasn’t been a head coach at the high school or college level.
This is new to the Orange, too. But while Boeheim and others don’t expect a carbon-copy blueprint, the underlying paradox facing Autry is there’s an element of Boeheim’s tenure he’ll need to replicate, similar to when other former players — Kevin Ollie for Jim Calhoun at Connecticut in 2012, Jon Scheyer for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke in 2022 — took over for their legendary coaches. There can’t be a drop-off.
Autry has been tasked with protecting the reputation of a program that’s recently blended regular-season mediocrity with NCAA Tournament magic.
The only way for the Harlem native to establish trust with the fan base, Boeheim told The Post, is “you win.”
“He’s probably better prepared than 95 percent of new head coaches,” Boeheim said. “And that’s important. There’s nothing he’s going to see that he won’t have seen, and he’s perfectly prepared to take this over.”
Autry’s first chance at being a college head coach took years of patience after three years at Virginia Tech and then the past 11 at Syracuse.
He didn’t even pinpoint his desire to coach until after his overseas playing career ended and he dabbled in real estate.
“Once I finished playing in Europe, I didn’t really want to do much in basketball anymore,” Autry told The Post.
After a trip to Syracuse with family, Boeheim and assistant Mike Hopkins helped change his mind.
Autry started with high school and AAU positions.
He built relationships that became a recruiting foundation, and when Seth Greenberg hired him for the Hokies staff in 2008, Autry learned how to turn those connections into a “geographic footprint,” he said
“Some guys jump in and take the plunge early 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. “For other guys, they’re more patient.”
Autry kept waiting after returning to Syracuse as an assistant in 2011.
He was focused on the job ahead — scouting the Orange’s opponents, running his group in practice, recruiting — rather than the perks that might come with chasing a head-coaching title.
It’s the same approach he used as a point guard growing up in Harlem, focusing on St. Nicholas of Tolentine’s Catholic High School Athletic Association slate instead of the hectic recruiting scene — Malik Sealy (St. John’s), Brian Reese (North Carolina), Khalid Reeves (Arizona), Derrick Phelps (North Carolina) and Rob Phelps (Providence) all attracted college coaches, too — around him.
Shawnelle Scott, his former AAU teammate, recalled that when Autry was 13 years old, he always stayed in the park “working on his game.”
Autry understood basketball like a game of chess, Mackey said. He analyzed the pieces and either anticipated next moves or knew the precise reactions required, which eventually transitioned to coaching.
“He’s grounded and he’s not buying the bait of where he’s at right now,” Scott told The Post. “He’s just thinking about the job he needs to do.”
When Autry’s four-year playing career at Syracuse ended, he compiled enough assists (631) and steals (217) to still sit fifth and sixth, respectively, on its all-time list and also made the NCAA Tournament three times.
Now, as the Orange’s coach, Autry will have to balance on-court success and the inevitable culture shift that comes with new leadership.
It has started with day-to-day changes.
The 51-year-old sensed he’d arrived at a juncture in his career where he needed to start thinking about chasing that head-coaching job.
Syracuse was a “dream job” for him, and he knew it’d be easier to take over the Orange instead of starting from scratch elsewhere.
As Boeheim’s retirement loomed and “father time was taking its course,” Autry said Boeheim started dishing out additional tasks to the other assistants. Autry got to a point where he knew retirement would eventually come.
He didn’t ask, but then it became Syracuse’s reality in March.
Boeheim hasn’t second-guessed his retirement, he said.
The transition of power is complete.
He’ll attend practice for 20-30 minutes and leave.
He loves that.
Boeheim won’t be at the season-opener Monday, either — instead choosing to watch from home.
The 2-3 zone’s most loyal supporter knows the Orange might not use that defense, and he’s OK with that.
Boeheim, the architect, seems at peace with his final act.
And Autry, the inheritor, seems ready.
This story originally appeared on NYPost