NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- This time, the final four seconds were something for Syracuse to celebrate.
Coach Jim Boeheim and the Orangemen held on at the Superdome, where the team endured one of the toughest losses in the program's history in 1987.
"I'm just glad we won it for Derrick [Coleman], Rony Seikaly, Sherman Douglas, all those guys" on the '87 team, Boeheim said. "Derrick called me on the court afterward. I couldn't hear him because of the static, but I told him he was off the hook. Our kids had great heart. We played the best first half we could play, then we just hung on."
The last time Boeheim was in a title game in New Orleans, Keith Smart hit a baseline jumper with four seconds remaining to give Bobby Knight's Indiana Hoosiers a 74-73 victory. The shot came after Coleman missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
When the final horn sounded Monday night, Boeheim's trademark scowl turned into a wide grin. He raised his arms in triumph, memories of 1987 behind him.
"Am I happy we won? Sure. I'm not stupid," he said. "But I don't think about validation. I don't feel any smarter yet. Maybe tomorrow."
At the end of the game, Boeheim walked over and shook hands with Jayhawks coach Roy Williams, who lost his second title game in 12 years.
"I told him the same thing Bob Knight told me in 1987," said Boeheim, whose Orangemen also lost to Kentucky in the 1996 title game. "You'll be back some day. There is no doubt in my mind that he will win a national championship."
Boeheim's resume now is crammed with 653 victories, 22nd all-time, and his .742 winning percentage is third among active Division I coaches. He's the longest-tenured coach at the same school, having coached the Orangemen for 27 years.
Not bad for a walk-on who had to talk his way onto the team when he arrived at Syracuse in 1962 and was appointed coach in 1976 with a first contract that paid him $28,000.
This may have been his best coaching job. Older, wiser and more mellow with three young children at home to tire him out, Boeheim molded a team that started two freshmen, two sophomores and one senior into a winner.
Even though the Orangemen started 11-1, Boeheim tinkered with his lineup and gave freshman guard Billy Edelin playing time. He called that the hardest decision in his career because it meant the lone senior on the team, Kueth Duany, would lose minutes.
Along with such talented players as freshmen Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara, Boeheim incorporated sophomore Josh Pace into the lineup. He, too, became a solid contributor.
If Boeheim needed any vindication for using a 2-3 zone defense, it came in the final seconds against the Jayhawks.
Michael Lee, who was 3-for-3 on 3-pointers in the Jayhawks' semifinal win over Marquette, was wide-open in the left corner. But just as he released his shot, sophomore forward Hakim Warrick flew up and blocked it.
Kirk Hinrich's desperation 3 at the buzzer bounced harmlessly to the floor.
This time, the Orangemen survived.
"I know he's happy," Anthony said. "Tonight, he's probably the happiest man on Earth."
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